Jun 072020
 


Banksy June 2020

 

 

Coronavirus Shows Global Consequences Of China’s Local Censorship (SCMP)
More Than 140 Zuckerberg-Funded Scientists Want Facebook To Censor Trump (G.)
Cuba Sets Example With Successful Program To Contain Coronavirus (G.)
Brazil Govt Yanks Virus Death Toll As Data Befuddles Experts (AP)
China Would Make A Coronavirus Vaccine A ‘Global Public Good’ (R.)
FBI Pledge Allegiance to Black Lives Matter, Antifa (CTH)
Banksy: “It’s Not Their Problem, It’s Mine” (PA)
Walmart CEO Pledges $100 Million To Address Systemic Racism (Hill)
For Millennials And Women, The Jobs Report Was Catastrophic (ZH)
‘Never Say Never’ On ECB Buying Shares: Governing Council Member (R.)
Elmer Fudd Will Not Have A Gun In ‘Looney Tunes’ Reboot (Hill)
Mexico To Sit Out Extension Of OPEC+ Oil Output Cuts (R.)
DOJ, 50 State AGs Inn Push To Breakup Google’s Ad-Tech Dominance (ZH)
Judge In Epstein Grand Jury Case Has Ties To People Involved (Julie K. Brown)

 

 

The entire world increasingly retreats into echo chambers deeply buried in trenches, goaded onwards by mass value signaling and gaslighting. It is scary.

 

 

Total global cases surpassed 7,000,000.


Total global deaths surpassed 400,000.

 

 

Worldometer puts global new cases for June 5 at + 128,039.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is+ 132,816 cases.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 22,836
• Brazil + 30,488
• Russia + 8,984
• India + 10,086
• Pakistan + 4,960
• Chile + 5,246

 

 

Cases 7,004,814 (+ 132,816 from yesterday’s 6,871,728)

Deaths 402,665 (+ 4,002 from yesterday’s 398,663)

 

 

Note: Italy, Spain, France stripped out. They combine for 90,000 deaths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Interesting: other than in purely moral terms, to what degree does censorship hinder the world in finding a response to disasters like pandemics?

Coronavirus Shows Global Consequences Of China’s Local Censorship (SCMP)

China has the world’s highest number of internet users at over 854 million in 2019 according to the country’s Cyberspace Administration. However, its online world is confined within the so-called “Great Firewall”, and everything from criticism of the government to pornography is censored. Technology companies that run China’s social media platforms employ thousands of content moderators as censors and develop algorithms to prevent anything sensitive from being published or to quickly remove it, while foreign websites and social media platforms such Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are blocked.

[..] About 19 posts per 1,000 were removed – almost 700 from 37,226 – when China’s Centres for Disease Control published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 29 that indicated officials knew of human-to-human transmission of Covid-19 earlier than admitted. The authorities had previously claimed there was no evidence of human-to-human spread of the disease “so that’s why this was the top grievance”, Fu said. “There were a lot of people complaining and reacting to that paper.” News of the coronavirus became public on December 30, 2019, after screenshots from doctors’ chat groups warning about an unknown respiratory illness spread online. But police reprimanded some of the doctors who tried to raise the alarm, including Li Wenliang who later died from the disease, prompting a huge outpouring of public grief and anger.

Li’s death on February 7 prompted another spike in censorship with three posts per 1,000 – 117 out of 40,232 – relating to the topic being censored that day. Again, Fu said, what seemed like a low number was explained by the huge amount of posts and the fact that many would not have been detected by Weiboscope because they did not mention Li’s name to avoid the censors. Independent journalists have also been targeted, and two citizen journalists Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin are still missing after they disappeared in February after reporting from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the initial Covid-19 outbreak in China.

Research published in the journal Nature last month estimated that if strong intervention had been taken against Covid-19 in China a week earlier, cases could have been “dramatically reduced” by 66 per cent. Acting three weeks earlier, at the start of January, would have reduced the number of cases by 95 per cent, according to the paper by scientists from China, the United States and Britain. “Early warnings allow governments to take early action,” Fu said. “We find evidence that social media posts including early warnings to the public were censored especially in the early stage of the pandemic.”

Read more …

Would they like their own work censored as well? Or just the people they don’t agree with?

More Than 140 Zuckerberg-Funded Scientists Want Facebook To Censor Trump (G.)

More than 140 scientists funded by Mark Zuckerberg have said Facebook should not be letting Donald Trump use the social media platform to “spread both misinformation and incendiary statements”. The researchers, who include more than 60 professors at leading US research institutions and one Nobel laureate, sent the Facebook CEO a letter on Saturday asking him to “consider stricter policies on misinformation and incendiary language that harms people”, especially during the current turmoil over racial injustice. The letter calls the spread of “deliberate misinformation and divisive language” contrary to the researchers’ goals of using technology to prevent and eradicate disease, improve childhood education and reform the criminal justice system.

Their mission “is antithetical to some of the stances that Facebook has been taking, so we’re encouraging them to be more on the side of truth and on the right side of history, as we’ve said in the letter”, said Debora Marks of Harvard Medical School, one of three professors who organized it. The others are Martin Kampmann of the University of California, San Francisco, and Jason Shepherd of the University of Utah. All have grants from a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative program working to prevent, cure and treat neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. They said the letter had more than 160 signatories. Shepherd said about 10% were employees of foundations run by Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.


The letter objects specifically to Zuckerberg’s decision not to act on a post by Trump that stated “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. The letter’s authors called the post “a clear statement of inciting violence”.

Read more …

“..tens of thousands of family doctors, nurses and medical students to “actively screen” all homes on the island for cases of Covid-19 – every single day.”

Cuba Sets Example With Successful Program To Contain Coronavirus (G.)

The World Health Organization has identified Latin America as the new centre for coronavirus pandemic, but over the last two months, cases in Cuba have fallen. Cubans are now 24 times less likely to catch the virus than Dominicans, 27 times less likely to catch it than Mexicans, and more than 70 times less likely to be infected than Brazilians. Desperate for tourist revenue, Cuba closed its border later than most other countries in the region. But ever since the communist-ruled island shut out the outside world in late March, it has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the virus. The state has commanded tens of thousands of family doctors, nurses and medical students to “actively screen” all homes on the island for cases of Covid-19 – every single day.


That means that from Monday to Sunday, Dr Caballero and her medical students must walk for miles, monitoring the 328 families on her beat. “There’s no other country in the hemisphere that does anything approaching this,” said William Leogrande, professor of government at American University in Washington DC. “The whole organization of their healthcare system is to be in close touch with the population, identify health problems as they emerge, and deal with them immediately. “We know scientifically that quick identification of cases, contact tracing and quarantine are the only way to contain the virus in the absence of a vaccine – and because it begins with prevention, the Cuban health system is perfectly suited to carry out that containment strategy.”

Read more …

Johns Hopkins depended on those numbers. Don’t know about Worldometer.

Brazil Govt Yanks Virus Death Toll As Data Befuddles Experts (AP)

Brazil’s government has stopped publishing a running total of coronavirus deaths and infections in an extraordinary move that critics call an attempt to hide the true toll of the disease in Latin America’s largest nation. The Saturday move came after months of criticism from experts saying Brazil’s statistics are woefully deficient, and in some cases manipulated, so it may never be possible to gain a real understanding of the depth of the pandemic in the country. Brazil’s last official numbers showed it had recorded over 34,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, the third-highest number in the world, just ahead of Italy. It reported nearly 615,000 infections, putting it at the second-highest, behind the United States. Brazil, with about 210 million people, is the globe’s seventh most populous nation.

On Friday, the federal Health Ministry took down a website that had showed daily, weekly and monthly figures on infections and deaths in Brazilian states. On Saturday, the site returned but the total numbers of infections for states and the nation were no longer there. The site now shows only the numbers for the previous 24 hours. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted Saturday that disease totals are “not representative” of the country’s current situation. A Bolsonaro ally contended to the newspaper O Globo that at least some states providing figures to the Health Ministry had sent falsified data, implying that they were exaggerating the toll. Carlos Wizard, a businessman expected to assume a high-level post in the Health Ministry, said the federal government would be conducting a review intended to determine a “more accurate” toll.


[..] A council of state health secretaries said it would fight the changes by Bolsonaro, who has dismissed the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic and tried to thwart attempts to impose quarantines, curfews and social distancing, arguing those steps are causing more damage to the economy than the pandemic. “The authoritarian, insensitive, inhumane and unethical attempt to make the COVID-19 deaths invisible will not prosper,” the health secretaries council said Saturday.

Read more …

US Senator Scott says they’ll do the opposite, even hinder western attempts at a vaccine.

China Would Make A Coronavirus Vaccine A ‘Global Public Good’ (R.)

China will increase international cooperation if it succeeds in developing a novel coronavirus vaccine, the science and technology minister said on Sunday. China would make a vaccine a “global public good” when it is ready, the minister, Wang Zhigang, told a news conference in Beijing.

[..] China is expending great efforts in the global scramble to develop a vaccine for the new coronaries epidemic that began in its central city of Wuhan, with Chinese researchers conducting five separate clinical trials on humans, or half of all such trials globally, according to the data compiled by the World Health Organization. President Xi Jinping vowed last month at the World Heath Assembly, the WHO’s governing body, that vaccines China’s develops will become a “global public good” once they are ready for use, and it will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.


Developing “a vaccine is still the fundamental strategy in our effort to overcome the new coronavirus,” Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang told a news conference in Beijing. But vaccine development is very difficult and takes time, he said, when asked how China would initially prioritise shots by country when a vaccine is found. “The rigour of vaccine development has been compared by some scientists to a dance involving precise steps and rehearsals,” Wang said.

Read more …

How right wing America views the issue. They feel betrayed by the FBI because of Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Lisa Page, Russiagate and the impeachment fiasco.

FBI Pledge Allegiance to Black Lives Matter, Antifa (CTH)

In a display of public unity with ‘The Movement’ writ large, FBI officials took a knee to declare their woke allegiance with the protesting mobs. With that visible display we now have a better understanding of the motives behind a history of FBI failures. Setting aside the optic that some members of the FBI looking more like ‘meal-team-6’, there was always a suspicion the FBI were more concerned about political correctness than actually doing the work of a federal investigative agency. Historically the FBI has failed miserably to stop domestic terror threats; and when the investigative failures are researched there’s usually a prior connection between the attackers and the FBI.

The father of the Orlando Pulse nightclub terrorist, Omar Mateen, was a guy named Seddique Mateen (you might remember seeing him at the Hillary Clinton rally). After Omar killed 49 people it was discovered that Seddique had been an FBI informant for over eleven years (2005 to 2016). Similarly, after the Parkland school shooting, it was discovered the FBI was fully aware of Nikolas Cruz, yet again they had taken no action. The exact same scenario had played out several years earlier when the FBI was warned about the Tsarnaev brothers before the Boston Marathon Bombing 2013 and yet they did nothing to stop it.


The FBI is now a political agency with police powers within the federal government. The activity of Lisa Page, Peter Strzok, James Comey, Andrew McCabe and a host of very familiar names has shown just how important politics is within the institution. Indeed, as we saw in the ridiculous Hillary Clinton investigation, politics was the prism for every decision; and protecting their ideological tribe was the biggest concern within the agency. Understanding the sensitivity behind the FBI to the Muslim community; a sensitivity almost identical to the expressed position of the democrat party apparatus; it should not come as a big surprise to see FBI agents ignoring terror threats and simultaneously taking a knee to show their allegiance with Black Lives Matter.

Read more …

The headline the Guardian used for this PA Media piece is “Banksy Supports Black Lives Matter With Latest Artwork”. But he doesn’t, or we don’t know if he does, not from his words. He supports black people, not some movement.

Banksy: “It’s Not Their Problem, It’s Mine” (PA)

Banksy has shown his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, saying “people of colour are being failed by the system”. The graffiti artist wrote in an Instagram post: “At first I thought I should just shut up and listen to black people about this issue. But why would I do that? It’s not their problem, it’s mine. “People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system. Like a broken pipe flooding the apartment of the people living downstairs. The faulty system is making their life a misery, but it’s not their job to fix it. They can’t, no one will let them in the apartment upstairs. “This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”

Read more …

Walmart supports black people. What a joke that is.

A single Tweet says it all: “Walmart is the largest private employer of Black people in the US, is viciously anti-union, and pays poverty wages..”

Walmart CEO Pledges $100 Million To Address Systemic Racism (Hill)

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is pledging to donate $100 million over five years to create a new center on racial equity following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died as a result of an arrest by Minneapolis police. In an email to employees Friday, McMillon condemned racial violence and said the company plans to make changes to fight for greater racial equity inside and outside of Walmart. “The global health crisis has tested all of us in recent months, and the racial violence in the U.S.— in particular, the murder of George Floyd — is tragic, painful and unacceptable,” McMillon wrote in the email. The Walmart CEO laid out several initiatives the company will undertake, including making the recruitment, development and support of African Americans inside the company “even more of a priority.”


The company will also invest in improving fairness, equity and justice in society broadly. “We will find the natural overlaps between Walmart’s core business and society’s larger needs that perpetuate racism and discrimination,” McMillon wrote. “Specifically, we’re going to focus the power of Walmart on our nation’s financial, healthcare, education and criminal justice systems.” McMillon said the center focused on racial equity “will seek to advance economic opportunity and healthier living, including issues surrounding the social determinants of health, strengthening workforce development and related educational systems, and support criminal justice reform with an emphasis on examining barriers to opportunity faced by those exiting the system.”

Read more …

Trump is so eager to praise the headline numbers that he forgets they are nonsense, and misses the opportunity to tell people to try harder.

For Millennials And Women, The Jobs Report Was Catastrophic (ZH)

There were clear problems with Friday’s “incredible” – as Trump put it – jobs report. First and foremost the BLS’ own admission there was a “survey error” which may have reduced the real unemployment rate by up to 3% as survey-takers mistakenly counted about 4.9 million temporarily laid-off people as employed, then moving through some very aggressive statistical assumption revisions to boost the “birth/death” model, the curious case of millions of “jobs” resurrected temporarily thanks to the PPP program: as recruitment firm LaSalle Network head Tom Gimbel said, today’s jobs report may offer a “false ray of light” because almost all job gains stemmed from furloughed employees kept on the books due to PPP loans (he said he was seeing real weakness in new hiring).


But even if one accepts the report at its face, if one digs beneath the glossy veneer, the details are anything but “incredible” as described by the president. Start with Trump’s “incredible” V-shaped rebound: after the 2.5mm new jobs added, total US employment is basically where it was at the depth of the financial crisis, while 21 million workers find themselves unemployed – this number was 6 million just two months ago. Putting that number in context, with roughly 133 million employed workers, there are a record 102 million Americans who are not in the labor force, of whom 92.7 million don’t even want a job.

Among those who were lucky enough to remain in the work force, millions were shifted from full to part-time.

[..] And here is the catalyst for the next round of social discontent: women unemployment is now far higher than that of men after being roughly the same before covid: how long before accusation of rampant employer sexism are the next big thing?

Read more …

Dangerous because clueless. Trying to revive the past, because that’s what got him his job.

‘Never Say Never’ On ECB Buying Shares: Governing Council Member (R.)

“Never say never” on the European Central Bank one day buying shares rather than government or corporate bonds, but it has not discussed the idea yet, ECB Governing Council member Robert Holzmann said in comments published on Sunday. The ECB on Thursday announced a bigger-than-expected expansion of its stimulus package to prop up an economy plunged by the coronavirus pandemic into its worst recession since World War Two. Holzmann took over as head of the Austrian National Bank just last year but has already been outspoken on various issues, calling for the ECB to lower its often-undershot inflation target and warning against negative rates. He also says he initially suggested that Thursday’s decision be put off.


“Never say never. If the need is there, this discussion will definitely have to take place. But currently that discussion does not exist,” Holzmann told newspaper Die Presse when asked if the ECB could start buying shares. On lowering the inflation target from just under 2%, Holzmann said he could still change his stance in a discussion that the ECB has pushed back because of the pandemic. “If it is difficult to get from 1.5% to 1.9%, then in a time of low inflation expectations one can also set oneself a different target, although I myself have not yet formed a final opinion here,” Holzmann said. “The fundamental discussion on ECB strategy has been postponed because of the crisis and should be taken up again as of the summer,” he added.

Read more …

How to make guns magically disappear.

Elmer Fudd Will Not Have A Gun In ‘Looney Tunes’ Reboot (Hill)

In a new series based on the beloved “Looney Tunes” cartoons, the classic character Elmer Fudd will no longer carry a gun. The new series “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” which premiered last week on the streaming service HBO Max, will feature the cartoon’s characteristic violence – using sticks of dynamite, booby traps and the iconic anvils and bank safes dropped onto characters, The New York Times reported last week. However, Peter Browngardt, the series executive producer and showrunner, told the outlet, “We’re not doing guns.” “But we can do cartoony violence — TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in,” Browngardt told the outlet.


Elmer Fudd is regularly foiled trying to hunt Bugs Bunny on the show. In the new series, the character will carry a scythe. However, comics artist Johnny Ryan, who worked on the show, noted to the Times that he believes “We’re going through this wave of anti-bullying, everybody needs to be friends, everybody needs to get along.” “‘Looney Tunes’ is pretty much the antithesis of that,” he said. “It’s two characters in conflict, sometimes getting pretty violent.”

Read more …

OPEC+ meets COVID19. That was nnever going to be smooth.

Mexico To Sit Out Extension Of OPEC+ Oil Output Cuts (R.)

Mexico will not join other top oil producers in extending through July output cuts aimed at propping up the price of crude, Energy Minister Rocio Nahle said on Saturday. Made up of OPEC members and allies led by Russia, the group known as OPEC+ agreed in April to cut oil supply by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in May and June to support prices. Under that deal, Mexico pledged to reduce its crude output by 100,000 bpd in May and June, after resisting pressure from other oil producers to make cuts of 400,000 bpd. The cuts had been due to taper to 7.7 million bpd from July to December, but on Saturday, OPEC+ agreed to extend the production cuts until the end of July.


Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has vowed to ramp up the country’s crude oil production, said on Friday that Mexico was not in a position to make additional cuts on top of what it had agreed in April. His energy minister Rocio Nahle confirmed Mexico would not participate in the fresh cuts agreed on Saturday. “There are other countries that extended their cuts to July, in this case we said no, we’ll stick to the agreement that we signed in April,” she told reporters in the eastern state of Veracruz. “There’s no problem.”

Read more …

They’re going to frustrate the CIA? I’ll believe it when I see it.

DOJ, 50 State AGs Inn Push To Breakup Google’s Ad-Tech Dominance (ZH)

In what would be a monumental move — and we might ad good for independent media breaking the shackles of the mainstream’s ongoing attempts to police content and punish dissent — Google’s total dominance over online advertising could soon come to an end. CNBC revealed Friday that no less than 50 sate attorneys general have been investigating Google’s business practices as part of a months long probe alongside a parallel DOJ effort, and momentum is gaining toward a looming major antitrust lawsuit against the internet giant. Leading the probe among the states is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who did not comment in Friday’s CNBC report.

Google, however, did respond, with a Google spokesperson rebutting with, “The facts are clear, our digital advertising products compete across a crowded industry with hundreds of rivals and technologies, and have helped lower costs for advertisers and consumers.” President Trump has lately put big tech in the spotlight over allegations of targeted censorship of conservative content, lately signing an executive order which seeks to reduce liability protections of major internet companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google. Independent and alternative voices have also long complained of being demonetized or unfairly targeted for analysis and commentary falling outside of accepted ‘groupthink’.


It remains that the bulk of Google’s some $161 billion in revenue comes via ad sales, with a far smaller amount coming through products the tech giant and its parent company Alphabet Inc. are traditionally known for: software and technology. CNBC summarizes what’s at stake as follows: “Critics have said that Google bundles its ad tools so that rivals can’t afford to match its offerings and that its operation of search results, YouTube, Gmail and other services to hinder ad competition. They also say that Google owns all sides of the “auction exchange” through which ads are sold and bought, giving it an unfair advantage.” But a key legal obstacle the courts would have to consider is the fact that Google’s ad group doesn’t function as a stand alone business, but is made up of Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, and Google Ad Manager.

Read more …

Julie K. Brown at the Miami herald is back. Worse than any fantasy, or book, or movie.

Judge In Epstein Grand Jury Case Has Ties To People Involved (Julie K. Brown)

The Palm Beach judge who has thus far refused to release grand jury records in the Jeffrey Epstein case has both professional and family ties to three of the politicians who have a stake in keeping those records secret, the Miami Herald has learned. Krista Marx, the Palm Beach chief judge who also heads a panel that polices judicial conduct, has potential conflicts of interest involving three prominent players embroiled in the Epstein sex-trafficking saga: State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been sued by the Palm Beach Post to release the grand jury records; Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, whose department’s favored treatment of Epstein while he was in the Palm Beach County jail is part of an ongoing state criminal investigation; and ex-State Attorney Barry Krischer, part of the same investigation in connection with his decision not to prosecute Epstein on child-sex charges.

Special prosecutors appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis went to court in January to unseal records of Krischer’s secret 2006 state grand jury presentment in the case. Prosecutors wanted to examine whether Krischer’s office told the panel the full scope of Epstein’s crimes, or whether state prosecutors kept key evidence from the grand jury. The grand jury returned a minor charge of solicitation of prostitution against Epstein, who later managed to negotiate a lenient plea deal, resulting in him serving 13 months in the Palm Beach County Jail, much of at his lavish office in West Palm Beach, thanks to generous work-release provisions.

Last year, following a series of stories in the Miami Herald detailing the machinations behind Epstein’s plea deal, DeSantis ordered a state criminal probe focusing on Krischer’s decision not to prosecute and on Bradshaw’s role in helping Epstein maintain an opulent lifestyle — including having sex with women — while subject to sheriff’s custody on sex charges. But Marx in January rejected the criminal prosecutors’ effort to unseal the grand jury records, calling it a “fishing expedition.’’ Then on Wednesday, she rebuffed a similar request by attorneys representing the Post, who sued Aronberg, and the county clerk, Sharon Bock, for release of the records.

Marx was dismissive of the Post’s lawsuit against Aronberg, who has denied he has custody of the grand jury records; and Bock, who has custody of the records but won’t release them without a court order. Marx, however, did not disclose from the bench that Krischer was her former boss, that her daughter works for Aronberg as an assistant state attorney and that her son works for Bradshaw as a sheriff’s deputy. Marx’s husband, Palm Beach County Judge Joe Marx, has a disclosure on his county web page stating he would recuse himself from any cases that involve his two stepchildren. Krista Marx’s county web page does not have such a disclosure.

Read more …

 

 

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May 132020
 


Harris&Ewing Treasury Building, Fifteenth Street, Washington, DC 1918

 

Don’t Let Governors Fool You About Reopening (Yaneer Bar-yam)
GOP Rejects Pelosi’s $3 Trillion HEROES Act Package (WE)
House Bill Would Provide Some As Young As 16 With $2,000 Monthly Payments (JTN)
HEROES Act Delivers A Win To The Health Insurance Industry (IC)
US Fossil Fuel Giants Set For A Coronavirus Bailout Bonanza (G.)
US COVID19 Death Forecast Revised Upward Again (R.)
Gilead Ties Up With Generic Drugmakers For COVID19 Drug Supply (R.)
Mexico Sees 353 Deaths In Most Lethal Coronavirus Day (R.)
Cuba Begins Mass Testing For COVID19 With Fewer Than 20 New Cases Per Day (G.)
How Hong Kong Did It (Atl.)
EU Faces ‘Existential Threat’ If Coronavirus Recovery Is Uneven (G.)
China’s April Air Passenger Numbers Down 68.5% Year-on-Year (R.)
US Airlines Tell Crews Not To Force Passengers To Wear Masks (R.)
Contacts Exposed Between US Kyiv Embassy, Yovanovitch, Burisma (Solomon)
Judge Delays Flynn Dismissal Decision, Invites Outside Opinions (JTN)

 

 

• US adds 1,894 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. Monday: 830, Sunday: 776.

 

 

Russia had its 10th consecutive day of more than 10,000 cases

 

 


 

 

 

Cases 4,358,220 (+ 85,116 from yesterday’s 4,273,104)

Deaths 293,236 (+ 5,615 from yesterday’s 287,621)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do the states that are doing well risk seeing their progress wiped out?

Don’t Let Governors Fool You About Reopening (Yaneer Bar-yam)

In March, I called on the US to impose a strict five-week national lockdown with internal and external travel restrictions to bring us to near zero infections. While measures were taken in many parts of the country, it was too little, too late. Now, I and many others are issuing another warning: the decisions of some US governors to prematurely ease social distancing is a disastrous mistake and citizens need to ignore them. Our research — and common sense — show that lifting social restrictions will lead to an explosion of Covid-19 cases and cause countless more deaths. The correct way to relax restrictions is to start with parts of a state that are Covid-free for 14 days and allow only essential travel to those parts of the state with 14-day quarantines for inbound travelers. Why will going along with reopening lead to catastrophe?

First, we must understand that coronavirus is very deadly. Those who claim the death rate is exaggerated are plain wrong and downplaying the emergency. While death rate estimates have varied, recent data from China, the United Kingdom and France, reflecting deaths outside hospitals, including in nursing homes, puts the Covid-19 global fatality rate at around 6.8%, based upon analysis we did at endcoronavirus.org, using data from Johns Hopkins University. Second, almost all reopening states, from California to Pennsylvania, currently have a critical mass of new cases of existing infections that could see new outbreaks in the coming days and weeks. Third, without extreme preventive measures, we’ve seen how coronavirus infections doubled every two to three days at one point in different areas — which equated to about a tenfold increase per week.

That means that a state with 1,000 new cases could have well over 100,000 more in two weeks, if social distancing is loosened. States like Texas have announced precautions to mitigate harm from reopening with measures like limiting restaurants and shopping malls to operating at a 25% or 50% capacity depending on the amount of cases in their areas. But we know from months of studying this disease that communities need more aggressive measures to stop the exponential spread of Covid-19. We prevented the contagion from being much worse by putting in place protective measures throughout the US. We expanded testing capacity. We ramped up our hospitals’ capacity to care for critically ill patients. But this “flattening the curve” isn’t enough. If we lighten up on our protective measures now, all the progress we’ve made will vanish, and we’ll suffer an enormous setback. We need to push even harder to win.

Read more …

View from the right wing.

GOP Rejects Pelosi’s $3 Trillion HEROES Act Package (WE)

Senate Republicans flatly rejected a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package House Democrats introduced Tuesday and said they’ll wait to decide whether more legislation is necessary. “If we reach a decision, along with the administration to move to another phase, that’ll be the time to interact with the Democrats,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “But what you’ve seen in the House is not something designed to deal with reality but designed to deal with aspirations. This is not a time for aspirational legislation. This is a time for practical response to the coronavirus pandemic.” Democrats blasted McConnell’s reaction to the massive bill.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, accused McConnell of ignoring the desperate needs of people out of work and left without paychecks. “We need big, bold action, and yet, Leader McConnell seems totally divorced from that reality,” Schumer said. “We need to act in a big and bold way. The House has started the ball rolling. Republicans and the president ought to understand that and help us move in a big, bold way, not stand in the way.” The House measures are massive in both cost and scope. It provides new $1,200 cash payments to individuals and more than $1 trillion to state, local, and municipal governments. It includes a bailout for troubled state pensions and the U.S. Postal Service and “hazard pay” for healthcare workers and other workers who are unable to stay at home during the coronavirus.

Republicans have no appetite for the wide-ranging measure, they said. Congress has already enacted $2.8 trillion in federal coronavirus relief aid, and both the GOP and President Trump say they plan to wait for that funding to roll out and for economies to begin reopening before assessing the need for new federal spending legislation. Sen. John Thune, the majority whip, said the House bill “is nothing more than a messaging exercise by the House Democrats.” The South Dakota Republican said the bill “is not going anywhere” and said the Senate “will be working in a bipartisan way with the White House” when considering new coronavirus funding.

Read more …

I think we can safely label this UBI. If people making up to $250,000 are eligible, the few percent that remain are negligible.

House Bill Would Provide Some As Young As 16 With $2,000 Monthly Payments (JTN)

House Democrats are proposing a $2,000-a-month stimulus payment for individuals 16 and older to help them during the coronavirus. Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Tim Ryan of Ohio have introduced the proposal as stand-alone legislation titled the Emergency Money for the People Act. A spokesperson for Ryan’s office told Just The News on Tuesday that he is working with House leadership to include his bill in future coronavirus stimulus legislation. The Khanna-Ryan proposal would provide the monthly payments to qualified recipients for one year. To qualify, individual recipients must make less than $130,000 annually and couples filing joint tax returns would have to make less than $260,000.


The proposal has 37 co-sponsors including Reps. Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Ted Lieu, of California. Khanna’s office said 16-year-olds would not have to file tax returns to qualify for the $2,000 per month. “They would have to fill out an online form that must be accessible via mobile phone to fill out” with their Venmo, Paypal, “other mobile money or direct deposit” information, a Khanna spokesperson said. Khanna’s office also told Just The News that illegal immigrants and non-citizens who file tax returns with tax ID numbers would qualify for the monthly direct payments in the bill.

Read more …

Here’s what you get for rejecting Medicare For All.

HEROES Act Delivers A Win To The Health Insurance Industry (IC)

The Heroes Act, the new coronavirus relief bill introduced by House Democrats on Tuesday, includes protections for employer-sponsored insurance plans, which the health care industry has been lobbying Congress on for weeks. The proposed legislation includes subsidies for continued coverage for furloughed workers and people using COBRA, a continuing health coverage plan for those who have lost work, even if they don’t pay their premiums. The bill also creates avenues for premium assistance for certain categories of people who want to pay those premiums anyway and would open a special insurance enrollment period a week from the date it’s enacted into law. It also provides nine months of premium payments to health insurance plan administrators who don’t receive them during the ongoing pandemic.

The push to protect insurance premiums comes as some health care companies, like UnitedHealth, Humana, and Cigna, have reported profits during the pandemic amid record-high unemployment levels and have boasted that they don’t expect to take a financial hit. In late April, dozens of industry groups — including the influential, conservative Chamber of Commerce — sent a letter to congressional leadership asking for direct subsidies for COBRA, expanding uses for health savings accounts, and increasing eligibility to access health insurance marketplaces.

A couple of weeks earlier, the nations’ second-largest health insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, joined a congressional call with members of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Caucus to ask for protections for employer coverage. According to two sources familiar with the April 13 call, AHIP’s CEO discussed the importance of protecting employer-sponsored plans. One person on the call, who works for an insurer and was not authorized to speak publicly about the conversation, said AHIP’s push for targeted relief to employers who pay premiums to insurance companies was puzzling, given that insurance companies have seen recent profits.

Read more …

The US is no longer capable of passing any law without both parties appropriating huge sums of money to their corporate sponsors. Every single bill that is passed increases inequality.

US Fossil Fuel Giants Set For A Coronavirus Bailout Bonanza (G.)

Fossil fuel companies and coal-powered utilities in the US are set for a potential bonanza under federal government plans for a bond bailout, part of the rescue package for the coronavirus crisis. At least 90 fossil fuel companies, many of them established giants such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and Koch Industries, stand to gain from the Federal Reserve’s coronavirus bond buyback programme, alongside more than 150 utilities including coal-heavy firms such as American Electric Power and Duke Energy, according to a new analysis. The bond buyback scheme is expected to be worth at least $750bn altogether and to benefit thousands of companies by the end of September, and the size of the payout that could go to fossil fuels and utilities is as yet unknown.


The scheme is to be discussed in the US Senate on Tuesday. Jason Disterhoft, a senior campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, which conducted the study, said public money should be used to bail out companies only with strict conditions attached. “Our concern is that these recovery funds should be prioritising people and communities and they are going instead to big companies to pay down their debts,” he said. Ten out of the top 40 fracking companies would be eligible to apply, according to the analysis, which examined all US fossil fuel companies and energy utilities to check whether they would qualify under the published scheme rules. It is not known whether any of these companies will apply for the support, though many are expected to do so.

Read more …

The modeling gets more useless with each update. Just say you don’t know.

US COVID19 Death Forecast Revised Upward Again (R.)

The latest forecast here from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reflects “key drivers of viral transmission like changes in testing and mobility, as well as easing of distancing policies,” the report said. The revision reinforced public health warnings, including U.S. Senate testimony on Tuesday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, that prematurely lifting lockdowns could lead to more outbreaks of the respiratory virus. Fauci and other medical experts have urged caution in relaxing restraints on commerce before diagnostic testing and the ability to trace close contacts of infected individuals can be vastly expanded, along with other safeguards.

IHME researchers acknowledged that precise consequences of moves to reopen shuttered businesses and loosen stay-at-home orders are difficult to gauge. “The full potential effects of recent actions to ease social distancing policies, especially if robust containment measures have yet to be fully scaled up, may not be fully known for a few weeks due to the time periods between viral exposure, possible infection and full disease progression,” the report said. COVID-19 has already claimed nearly 81,000 lives in the United States, out of more than 1.36 million known infections, according to a Reuters tally.

[..] The projections are presented as a range, with the latest forecast – 147,00-plus deaths – representing the average between a best-case scenario of 102,783 lives lost and a worst-case scenario of 223,489 fatalities. The forecasts have fluctuated over the past couple of months, with a projected death toll as low as 60,000 on April 18.

Read more …

It’s become normal to label remdesivir an “experimental COVID-19 treatment”.

Gilead Ties Up With Generic Drugmakers For COVID19 Drug Supply (R.)

Gilead Sciences Inc said on Tuesday it has signed non-exclusive licensing pacts with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan to expand the supply of its experimental COVID-19 treatment remdesivir. The pacts allow the companies – Jubilant Life Sciences Ltd, Cipla Ltd , Hetero Labs Ltd, Mylan NV and Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd – to make and sell the drug in 127 countries. The countries consist of nearly all low-income and lower-middle income ones, as well as several that are upper-middle- and high-income, the drugmaker said. Afghanistan, India, North Korea, Pakistan and South Africa are among the countries.


The licensees will also set their own prices for the generic product they produce, Gilead said. The licenses are royalty-free until the World Health Organization declares the end of the public health emergency regarding COVID-19, or until a product other than remdesivir or a vaccine is approved to treat or prevent COVID-19, the company said. Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir earlier this month received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19 patients.

Read more …

Rising in the charts. Close the borders.

Mexico Sees 353 Deaths In Most Lethal Coronavirus Day (R.)

Mexico’s health ministry confirmed 1,997 new cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, along with 353 additional deaths, the most deadly day since the pandemic began. The new infections brought confirmed coronavirus cases to 38,324 and 3,926 deaths in total, according to the official tally. Mexico’s previous highest daily death toll was on Thursday, when Mexico reported 257 fatalities.

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It’s easier for islands. And Cuba has a much better health care system than just about any country, that helps too.

Cuba Begins Mass Testing For COVID19 With Fewer Than 20 New Cases Per Day (G.)

Cuba has begun mass testing for coronavirus as it appeared to have contained infections, amid a partial shutdown that has exacerbated a shortage of basic goods. New cases have fallen to fewer than 20 per day from a peak of around 50 in April. Since the first Covid-19 illness was reported two months ago, there have been 1,804 confirmed cases, of which 70.7% have recovered and 78 people have died. Cuba has closed its borders and the tourism industry, schools and public transportation. Masks are mandatory and eating at restaurants, bars and social gatherings prohibited. Cubans have been urged to stay at home and practice social distancing.

But the public has not been confined to quarters and has taken to trudging about in search of basic supplies, waiting in long lines and even dusting off bicycles from the dark days following the fall of the Soviet Union. [..] While Communist-run Cuba’s universal and free healthcare system has proved key in containing Covid-19, the pandemic has exacerbated shortages of basic goods and a chaotic retail system caused largely by US sanctions and the centralized, state-dominated economy. Cuba’s top epidemiologist, Francisco Durán, said on Monday that mass testing would help better define the prevalence of the coronavirus as many people found to be infected showed no symptoms.

“The objective is to find new cases and then intervene, isolate, seek contacts, and take all possible measures to ensure that Cuba continues as it is now,” he said during his daily virus update broadcast to the nation. Many experts believe Cuba has managed to control the outbreak better than many countries in the region due to its well-staffed preventive healthcare system, mobilization of activists to track cases, a centralized system that allows a better focus, and willingness to quarantine large numbers of people. Cuban scientists announced last week they had adapted a computerized system developed locally to quickly detect antibodies of the new virus, allowing for mass testing in hospitals and clinics at little cost. Until now, the Caribbean island nation has used expensive tests – often donated – that take days to process, old-fashioned door knocking by health personnel and medical students to trace contacts, and isolation.

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Organizing at a small-scale level works.

How Hong Kong Did It (Atl.)

[..] there is no unchecked, devastating COVID-19 epidemic in Hong Kong. The city beat back the original wave, and also beat back a second resurgence due to imported cases. But unlike in Taiwan or South Korea, this success can’t be attributed to an executive that acted early and with good governance backed by the people. The secret sauce of Hong Kong’s response was its people and, crucially, the movement that engulfed the city in 2019. Seared with the memory of SARS, and already mobilized for the past year against their unpopular government, the city’s citizens acted swiftly, collectively, and efficiently, in effect saving themselves. [..]

On the very day the first known coronavirus case in Hong Kong was announced, the same protest team behind the candidate information sites immediately created a new website—this time to track cases of COVID-19, monitor hot spots, warn people of places selling fake PPE, and report hospital wait times and other relevant information. Many of the key information sources for Hong Kong protesters had been anonymous channels in the popular app Telegram and their own online forums. These anonymous formats protected the protesters from government repression but created a constant threat of misinformation, as someone could always pretend to be a protester or just be wrong or trolling.

Consequently, the protesters learned to become incessant fact-checkers, used to looking up multiple sources and critically analyzing information. Now they turned their powers to critical analysis to the coronavirus: criticizing their own officials, as well as the World Health Organization, which did not advise wearing masks or travel restrictions, and China, which they saw as covering up the initial epidemic (they were right on all counts). In response to the crisis, Hong Kongers spontaneously adopted near-universal masking on their own, defying the government’s ban on masks. When Lam oscillated between not wearing a mask in public and wearing one but incorrectly, they blasted her online and mocked her incorrect mask wearing.

In response to the mask shortage, the foot soldiers of the protest movement set up mask brigades—acquiring and distributing masks, especially to the poor and elderly, who may not be able to spend hours in lines. An “army of volunteers” also spread among the intensely crowded and often decrepit tenement buildings to install and keep filled hand-sanitizer dispensers. When the government refused at first to close the border with mainland China, more than 7,000 medical workers went on an unprecedented strike, demanding border closures and PPE for hospital workers. This strike was only possible because labor unions were formed during the protests. Now they came in handy for collective action.

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Since the recovery is 100% sure to be uneven, the ‘Existential Threat’ is inevitable.

EU Faces ‘Existential Threat’ If Coronavirus Recovery Is Uneven (G.)

The risk of an uneven economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis poses an “existential threat” to the European Union, one of its most senior economic policymakers has said. Paolo Gentiloni, a former Italian prime minister and now the EU’s economy commissioner, said the bloc also had a “historic opportunity” as it charts a plan to rescue Europe’s economy. In an interview a few days after the commission said Europe had entered “the deepest economic recession in its history”, Gentiloni said the EU needed a “sound recovery plan” to avoid the risks of economic division. Shuttered shops and factories, grounded planes and stay-at-home consumers as a result of lockdown restrictions mean the EU economy is expected to shrink by 7.5% in 2020, a deeper fall than the 2009 financial crisis.

Gentiloni is concerned that countries do not have the same resources to recover from this economic shock. The hardest hit countries – Greece, Italy, Spain and Croatia – face falls in economic output (GDP) in excess of 9% in 2020, while Germany’s economy is set to contract by 6.5% and Austria’s by 5.5%. Meanwhile countries have varying levels of state resources to rescue ailing companies and pay workers’ wages – emergency measures that have become easier since Brussels relaxed state aid rules to deal with the crisis. Gentiloni said state aid requests from EU member states were very imbalanced.

“What is clear is the uneven level of the recovery and the risks this creates to our single market and the necessary convergence, especially within the euro area. This is something that I could even define as an existential threat to the building of the Union,” he told a group of European newspapers, including the Guardian. “If we want to look from a more optimistic way it is not only an existential threat but also in some sense a historic opportunity to fill the void we have in common tools of economic and fiscal policies.”

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Good.

China’s April Air Passenger Numbers Down 68.5% Year-on-Year (R.)

China’s passenger numbers fell 68.5% in April from a year ago, for a drop smaller than in March, the aviation regulator said on Wednesday, pointing to a fragile industry recovery from the coronavirus pandemic as other nations reopen economies. The global tourism industry is closely watching trends in China for clues to travel patterns in other major markets as countries race to lift travel curbs. Air passengers numbered 16.72 million in April, Xiong Jie, a spokesman of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told an online news conference. That compared with a decline of 71.7% on the year in March, when passengers numbered 15.13 million.


China’s tourism sector showed encouraging signs of recovery over the May Day holiday with 115 million trips made, many by car and by younger people emerging from weeks of virus lockdown measures. More than 30% of capacity has returned in the Chinese domestic market in the last two months, aviation data provider Cirium said on Tuesday. But the number of passenger flights in China has not yet recovered to 60% of the levels seen in past years, Jin Junhao, another CAAC official, sadi during Wednesday’s conference.

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There are few places where you’re more likely to get infected than inside a plane (or a train, subway).

US Airlines Tell Crews Not To Force Passengers To Wear Masks (R.)

The top three U.S. airlines have told their flight attendants not to force passengers to comply with their new policy requiring face coverings, just encourage them to do so, according to employee policies reviewed by Reuters. American Airlines , Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have told employees that they may deny boarding at the gate to anyone not wearing a face covering, and are providing masks to passengers who do not have them, the three carriers told Reuters. Inside the plane, enforcement becomes more difficult.

“Once on board and off the gate, the face covering policy becomes more lenient. The flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement, with respect to the face covering policy,” American told its pilots in a message seen by Reuters explaining its policy, which went into effect on Monday. “Bottom line to the pilots: a passenger on board your aircraft who is being compliant with the exception of wearing a face covering is NOT considered disruptive enough to trigger a Threat Level 1 response,” referring to some kind of intentional disruption by a passenger that could cause the captain to divert the flight. American spokesman Joshua Freed said: “American, like other U.S. airlines, requires customers to wear a face covering while on board, and this requirement is enforced at the gate while boarding. We also remind customers with announcements both during boarding and at departure.”

[..] U.S. travel demand has fallen by about 94% in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting carriers to slash their flying schedules to roughly 30% of normal this month. With fewer planes in the skies, some are flying near capacity. Global airlines body IATA came out last week in favor of passengers wearing masks onboard, as debate intensifies in the United States on the role that government agencies should play in mandating new safety measures for flying before a vaccine is developed.

Read more …

Certainly in 2016, there was no way to become US ambassador to Ukraine without the approval of Victoria Nuland et al. So another “hero” falls.

Contacts Exposed Between US Kyiv Embassy, Yovanovitch, Burisma (Solomon)

During President Trump’s impeachment, former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified to Congress that she knew little beyond an initial briefing and “press reports” about Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian natural gas firm that had hired Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and was dogged by a corruption investigation. “It just wasn’t a big deal,” she declared under oath on Oct. 11, 2019. But newly unearthed State Department memos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Yovanovitch’s embassy in Kiev, including the ambassador herself, was engaged in several discussions and meetings about Burisma as the gas firm scrambled during the 2016 election and transition to settle a long-running corruption investigation and polish its image before President Trump took office.

Yovanovitch, for instance, was specifically warned in an email by her top deputy in September 2016 — three years before her testimony — that Burisma had hired an American firm with deep Democratic connections called Blue Star Strategies to “rehabilitate the reputation” of the Ukrainian gas firm and that it had placed “Hunter Biden on its board,” the memos show. She also met directly with a representative for Burisma in her embassy office, less than 45 days before Trump took office, a contact she did not mention during her impeachment deposition. The discussions about Burisma inside Yovanovitch’s embassy were so extensive, in fact, that they filled more than 160 pages of emails, memos and correspondence in fall 2016 alone, according to the State Department records obtained under FOIA by the conservative group Citizens United.

[..] The impeachment hearings last fall, which focused on efforts by Trump and his lawyer Rudy Guiliani to find evidence inside Ukraine on the Bidens and Burisma and to remove Yovanovitch from her job as U.S. ambassador, included testimony from Yovanovitch herself. During that deposition in October 2016, she made no mention of direct contact with Burisma representatives and instead suggested her knowledge about the company and its legal travails was limited mostly to a briefing she received in preparation for Senate confirmation as ambassador in summer 2016 and subsequent news media reports.

Read more …

Curious decision.

Judge Delays Flynn Dismissal Decision, Invites Outside Opinions (JTN)

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Tuesday delayed a decision on whether to dismiss Michael Flynn’s conviction for lying, indicating he plans to allow for the submission of outside opinions in the form of amicus curiae briefs. Last week, the Justice Department moved to drop the charges against Trump’s former national security advisor, but the judge’s plan to allow for the submission of friend of the court briefs means that the case will not be closed immediately. Sullivan has not issued a decision on the DOJ’s request to drop the charges. Flynn’s legal team blasted the idea of allowing for the submission of amicus briefs, which allow for parties interested in but not involved in a case to present their views.


“It is no accident that amicus briefs are excluded in criminal cases,” Flynn’s lawyers wrote in a filing according to The Hill. “A criminal case is a dispute between the United States and a criminal defendant. There is no place for third parties to meddle in the dispute, and certainly not to usurp the role of the government’s counsel. For the Court to allow another to stand in the place of the government would be a violation of the separation of powers.” Flynn in 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, but later sought to withdraw his guilty plea. Evidence that has since emerged suggested the FBI had no case against Flynn but set up an interview in hopes it would catch him lying, his lawyers and Justice officials have said.

Read more …

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Apr 052020
 


Pietro Lorenzetti Jesus enters Jerusalem 1320 (Basilica of St Francis of Assisi)
“And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, Who is this? And the multitudes said, This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – Matthew 21:10-11 #PalmSunday

 

Getting Your Head Around Exponential Growth (Steve Keen)
Reporting Estimated Rather Than Confirmed Infections Might Save Lives (M.)
Japan To Boost Avigan Drug Stockpile As Part Of Coronavirus Stimulus (R.)
Mainland China Sees Rise In New Coronavirus Cases (R.)
Researchers May Have Found Coronavirus’ Achilles’ Heel (NYP)
Landlords Cancel Rent for Tenants So They Can Buy Food, Pay Employees (AN)
Tucson Hospital On The Brink Of Closure Because Of COVID19 Costs (AZC)
I Found The Source (ZH)
China Floods Europe With Defective Medical Equipment (Kern)
Turkey Seizes Hundreds Of Ventilators Paid For By Spain (Ind.)
US Blockade Prevents Medical Supplies From Reaching Cuba (TeleSur)
Prosecutors Want Delay In Michael Flynn Case, Defense Seeks Dismissal (SAC)
Show Typical British Resolve, Queen To Tell Nation (R.)
Prince Andrew Will Reportedly Not Be Interviewed In Epstein Documentary (G.)
Julian Assange “Not Eligible” For Early COVID19 Release – UK (CN)
Boomer Elegy (Kunstler)

 

 

Coronavirus update, New York City:

– 4,561 new cases in last 24 hours
– 124,652 tests performed
– 60,850 tested positive
– 25,029 under age 45
– 2,254 deaths
– 12,716 hospitalized

Countries to keep an eye on: France, UK!, Turkey, Belgium,. Portugal, Brazil, Romania, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Mexico.

 

 

Cases 1214487 (+ 83,912 from yesterday’s 1,130,575)

Deaths 65605 (+ 5,477 from yesterday’s 60,128)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% !

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

I suspect the lack of understanding of the exponential function may lead to many people saying more people die of normal flu.

Getting Your Head Around Exponential Growth (Steve Keen)

A lot of people still don’t seem to get the concept of exponential growth, even though we’ve had over two months of watching an exponential process unfold with the Coronavirus. I hope some simple illustrations using current data might help. John Hopkins University is doing an excellent job of collating the cumulative number of cases reported around the world with its GIS database Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). They’ve made the raw time series data available too. Aggregated to the world level, this is what cumulative COVID-19 cases looked like as of late on April 4th:

This is simply the total number of recorded cases, which includes tested cases where the carrier has only mild symptoms, people who got the disease way back when it began and have since recovered, those who have died, those who are still in intensive care, etc. The global total was just over 1.2 million on April 4th. A simple regression of this data onto an exponential function yields the prediction that, if the rate of transmission and the rate of doubling of the disease reflects what has happened to date from January 21st, when the JHU time series begins, in a week’s time there will be twice as many cases: 2.5 million compared to today’s 1.2 million.

That’s a lot of cases, but it’s still way short of the total world population of about 7.5 billion. It took about ten weeks to go from 555 cases (the number recorded on January 21st at the start of this data series) to over 1 million. How long will it take to get to a significant number compared to the planet’s population—say, half a billion cases? It will take about another 8 weeks.

The red line in each of these graphs is the same red line. Now only a fraction of those infected are going to be current cases—basically, those who were identified in the preceding 2-4 weeks—and only a fraction of those—perhaps about 20%–are going to require hospitalization. But that’s still a huge number of people, far more than can be handled in the world’s emergency medical facilities. This is why this disease is not “just another flu”. It is far more contagious (and we also don’t have any innate resistance to it). We have to “Flatten the curve”, we can’t cope with the number of cases doubling every week, as is the case now.

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True at heart, but he does not explain how.

Reporting Estimated Rather Than Confirmed Infections Might Save Lives (M.)

Day after day we see startling and quickly rising numbers of confirmed COVID-19 infections. They’re scary. But the true scope of the pandemic is almost certainly scarier. Confirmed cases represent only a fraction of the real spread. In most communities, only the sickest patients are being tested so most people with mild symptoms and those that are asymptomatic go untested and unreported. The real number of people who have been infected by the virus almost certainly dwarfs the cases we know about. And the public winds up with a distorted picture of how prevalent the virus is, often tragically. When there is exponential growth, every unreported case matters even more, as a handful cases can quickly grow to thousands within a few weeks.

And it’s doubtful that most people recognize how seriously confirmed cases underreport the real situation. Knowing that there are ten confirmed cases in your neighborhood now doesn’t mean there are only ten cases that you can come in contact with. The reality could well be that there are actually a hundred cases, ten that were tested and confirmed, fifty that have not yet shown symptoms and not yet been tested, another forty that have been tested and still are waiting on their results. In just a few days, that total could as much as double, depending on the county you live in, because of the speed at which the disease tends to spread. (Right now, the number of confirmed cases in New York city is doubling every two and a half days).

Armed with estimates of the actual scope of the problem from expert epidemiologists, far fewer people would engage in unsafe behavior. If this more useful information were being reported, the beaches during spring break might have been emptier. We can’t get past this until we have had stringent lockdowns for long enough for our healthcare workers to catch up. And we can’t expect citizens to respect stringent lockdown orders unless they have clear and accurate information, not just the data that are most conveniently available. That means getting accurate estimates out is critical. We urge governments and epidemiologists to start publishing estimates of current cases, which would include both confirmed and not yet discovered infections, and we urge the media to start asking for them–and reporting them, daily.

Some of the groundwork is already in place in models that project deaths based on factors such as population density, current testing capacities and methodologies, false negative rates, death rates (and criteria for reporting them), and mitigation strategies. By deriving estimates of currentcases from these models and making those estimates more explicit, and widely available, we can help people and governments make better decisions. No one single estimate will be perfect, but without any readily available sources, we are running almost entirely blind.

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Japan will rebuild its own medicine industry to move away from China. So will many other countries.

Japan To Boost Avigan Drug Stockpile As Part Of Coronavirus Stimulus (R.)

Japan is considering increasing the stockpile of Fujifilm Holding Corp’s Avigan anti-flu drug during this fiscal year so it can be used to treat 2 million people, according to a planning document seen by Reuters. Local media reported on Sunday that Japan was hoping to triple the production of the drug from current levels, which is enough to treat 700,000 people if used by coronavirus patients. Avigan, also known as Favipiravir, is manufactured by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, which has a healthcare arm although it is better known for its cameras. The drug was approved for use in Japan in 2014. Avigan is being tested in China as a treatment for COVID-19.


In the emergency stimulus package expected to be rolled out on Tuesday, the government also planned to prioritise the clinical trial process of the drug so it can be formally approved to be used in treating coronavirus patients. According to the document, Japan also plans to boost subsidies to domestic companies that supply masks and disinfectants and will secure enough capacity to supply 700 million masks a month. The Nikkei newspaper reported on Sunday that in efforts to reduce its dependence on China as its manufacturing hub, it will subsidise companies that will move some of their production facilities back to Japan.

Read more …

They’ll find way to hide them again.

Mainland China Sees Rise In New Coronavirus Cases (R.)

Mainland China reported 30 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, up from 19 a day earlier as the number of cases involving travellers from abroad as well as local transmissions increased, highlighting the difficulty in stamping out the outbreak. The National Health Commission said in a statement on Sunday that 25 of the latest cases involved people who had entered from abroad, compared with 18 such cases a day earlier. Five new locally transmitted infections were also reported on Saturday, all in the southern coastal province of Guangdong, up from a day earlier. The mainland has now reported a total of 81,669 cases, while the death toll has risen by three to 3,329.


Though daily infections have fallen dramatically from the height of the epidemic in February, when hundreds of new cases were reported daily, Beijing remains unable to completely halt new infections despite imposing some of the most drastic measures to curb the virus’ spread. The so-called imported cases and asymptomatic patients, who have the virus and can give it to others but show no symptoms, have become among China’s chief concerns in recent weeks. The country has closed off its borders to almost all foreigners as the virus spread globally, though most of the imported cases involve Chinese nationals returning from overseas.

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Or they may not. No lack of aspiration.

Researchers May Have Found Coronavirus’ Achilles’ Heel (NYP)

There may be some good news on the coronavirus horizon, as Scripps Research reported it may have found COVID-19’s Achilles heel. The research shows a specific area of the virus could be “targeted with drugs and other therapies, a finding that also could help with the development of a vaccine,” according to the San Diego Tribune. The targeted area, according to biologist Ian Wilson, who led the scientific team, “is crucial to spreading the highly contagious virus, and … its composition suggests that it would be vulnerable to drugs.” The discovery was published Friday in the journal Science and comes as scientists globally are working feverishly to find a vaccine or cure for the pandemic that has devastated global markets and caused more than 63,000 deaths worldwide.


An antibody taken from a SARS patient years earlier was used in the discovery, as researchers realized it had attached itself to a specific part of the virus, and were able to repeat the phenomenon with COVID-19, helping to identify a coronavirus weakness, according to the report. “That high degree of similarity implies that the site has an important function that would be lost if it mutated significantly,” Scripps Research said in a statement Friday. Sadly, the weak spot isn’t easy to find. “We found that this (spot) is usually hidden inside the virus, and only exposed when that part of the virus changes its structure, as it would in natural infection,” Wilson’s colleague, Meng Yuan, said in a statement.

Read more …

Saw this yesterday but it was in the New York Times, and we don’t cover that rag around here. But good on the landlords, and may many more be inspired.

Landlords Cancel Rent for Tenants So They Can Buy Food, Pay Employees (AN)

In the United States, many people who live paycheck to paycheck are worried that they won’t be able to afford housing or basic necessities during the shutdown. There has been a freeze on mortgages in most places, but these conditions overlook renters, who are often-times the most vulnerable. Many renters and activists across the country have called for a rent strike for the month of April, but some landlords have taken it upon themselves to help out their tenants. Mario Salerno, of Brooklyn, New York, owns 18 apartment buildings, and has told his renters to not worry about paying rent during the shutdown, but to instead make sure that all of their other needs are covered. Salerno told the New York Times that his main concern is the health of his tenants.


He said he had about 200 to 300 tenants in total, and estimates that he will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in income during the month of April. Salerno isn’t the only one, this type of rent forgiveness is happening across the country. A landlord in Jonesboro, Arkansas, made a post on social media last month saying that his company would not expect its restaurants to pay rent during the shutdown, and suggested that they continue to pay their employees instead. Young Investment Company owns properties that are home to some of the area’s most popular restaurants, including Eleanor’s Pizzeria, Roots, Main Street Coffee, The Parsonage, and City Wok. Property owner Clay Young said that all small businesses are suffering right now and he did not want to put more pressure on them during this difficult time.

Read more …

If this doesn’t signal the end of the health care for profit model, nothing will.

“All hospitals are going to need some economic relief very, very soon.”

Tucson Hospital On The Brink Of Closure Because Of COVID19 Costs (AZC)

Leaders of a small, regional hospital south of Tucson say they are on the brink of closing because of costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. “We need economic relief to keep functioning,” Kelly Adams, CEO of the 49-bed Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital, told The Arizona Republic. “There’s a revenue problem. … All hospitals are going to need some economic relief very, very soon.” One of the problems, Adams explained, is that elective surgeries have been canceled as a result of an executive order by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in anticipation of a surge of patients ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The cancellation of surgeries means less revenue coming in from patients at a time when the hospital is trying to comply with another executive order from Ducey — that all Arizona hospitals by April 24 increase their number of patient beds by 50 percent. Increasing bed capacity is adding additional expenses at a time when the hospital has very little revenue, Adams explained. Overall hospital volume is down by about 40% not only because of halting surgeries, leaders say, but also because members of the community fear visiting a hospital where they could potentially be in proximity to COVID-19.

Leaders say the hospital is pursuing various funding sources to get relief. But the need is urgent, said Patrick Feeney, a managing director with California-based Lateral Investment Management, which owns the hospital. “This isn’t just about our hospital. Hospitals cannot function profitably in this environment, which is why we’re all awaiting money from the government,” he said. “If you want me to increase our bed capacity by 50%, how am I going to do that? It’s going to cause me to shut our doors.”

Read more …

On February 2, over two months ago, which is an eternity especially in virustime, I described all this in The Party and the Virus.

But holding the CCP accountable? With 100,000s of lives and $10 trillion in damages? Don’t think so. Whether it was intentional or not.

I Found The Source (ZH)

“After living and working in China for over 10 years and speaking fluent Chinese, you get to know a society pretty well… and let me tell you this – if you’re applauding or admiring the political leadership of China, you’re all deluded beyond belief.” That is how “laowhy86” begins this succinct video exploring the ‘facts’ – not conspiracies – behind the source of the coronavirus that is ravaging the earth. “China doesn’t operate like ‘your’ country,” he warns, “the Chinese government is a face- and greed-driven government that relies on lies and bullying to maintain leadership.” [..] laowhy86 notes that another job opening appeared on December 24th (remember this is before any news broke of the virus publicly), which basically says ‘we’ve discovered a new and terrible virus and would like to recruit people to come deal with it’…[..]

So, he decided to dig a little bit more into the staff… and that’s where it gets interesting… as he discovers silenced scientists, disappeared doctors, and constant propaganda… “…it’s quite clear that the Chinese government needs to close its mouth and acknowledge that this virus did in fact come from Wuhan, Hubei, China.” [..] this is all public information on the Chinese internet published by researchers, scientists, and doctors.” [..] “Despite the CCP’s all-powerful ability to hide everything it can, the truth usually finds its way out – the Chinese government should cover their tracks better next time if they’re going to blame this on Italy or the US or whatever is convenient to your narrative.”

“…the CCP’s incompetence and its understanding of the danger of the virus on a pure scientific level – and then going on to silence those who wanted to warn the public… and letting the virus spread for months… is the reason the Chinese government must be held accountable!”

Read more …

Oh well, as I said yesterday: dependence on China is no longer acceptable.

China Floods Europe With Defective Medical Equipment (Kern)

[..] In Spain, the Ministry of Health revealed that 640,000 coronavirus tests that it had purchased from a Chinese supplier were defective. In addition, a further million coronavirus tests delivered to Spain on March 30 by another Chinese manufacturer were also defective. The Czech news site iRozhlas reported that 300,000 coronavirus test kits delivered by China had an error rate of 80%. The Czech Ministry of Interior had paid $2.1 million for the kits. A spokesperson for a hospital in Dutch city of Eindhoven said that Chinese suppliers were selling “a lot of junk… at high prices.” “No. 10 [the residence of the British prime minister] believes China is seeking to build its economic power during the pandemic with ‘predatory offers of help’ to countries around the world.” — The Daily Mail, March 28, 2020.

“The brutal truth is that China seems to flout the normal rules of behavior in every area of life — from healthcare to trade and from currency manipulation to internal repression. For too long, nations have lamely kowtowed to China in the desperate hope of winning trade deals. But once we get clear of this terrible pandemic, it is imperative that we all rethink that relationship and put it on a much more balanced and honest basis.” — Former UK Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith.

[..] On March 28, the Netherlands was forced to recall 1.3 million face masks produced in China because they did not meet the minimum safety standards for medical personnel. The so-called KN95 masks are a less expensive Chinese alternative to the American-standard N95 mask, which currently is in short supply around the world. The KN95 does not fit on the face as tightly as the N95, thus potentially exposing medical personnel to the coronavirus. More than 500,000 of the KN95 masks had already been distributed to Dutch hospitals before the recall was enacted. “When the masks were delivered to our hospital, I immediately rejected them,” a hospital worker told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS. “If those masks do not seal properly, the virus particles can simply pass through. We cannot use them. They are unsafe for our people.”

In a written statement, the Dutch Ministry of Health explained: “A first shipment from a Chinese manufacturer was partly delivered last Saturday. These are masks with a KN95 quality certificate. During an inspection this shipment was found not to meet our quality standard. Part of this shipment had already been delivered to healthcare providers; the rest of the cargo was immediately withheld and not further distributed. “A second test also showed that the masks did not meet our quality standard. It has now been decided that this entire shipment will not be used. New shipments will undergo additional tests.”

Read more …

Everybody’s anxious to make friends.

Turkey Seizes Hundreds Of Ventilators Paid For By Spain (Ind.)

Turkey was accused of seizing hundreds of ventilators and sanitary equipment destined for Spain amid the escalating coronavirus pandemic. Spanish officials said Ankara was holding the ventilators for “the treatment of their own patients”, despite local governments in Spain having already paid millions for them. In a press conference on Friday, Spain’s foreign affairs minister, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, appeared to admit defeat in her attempts to convince her Turkish counterpart to release the ventilators in the coming days. “Turkey has imposed restrictions on the export of medical devices, motivated by the need for medical supplies,” she said, according to Spanish national media. Late on Saturday, however, Ms Laya announced Turkey would allow the shipment to make its way to Spain.


Thanking Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Ms Laya tweeted: “We appreciate the gesture of a friendly and allied country.” Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Friday reported the ventilators were manufactured in Turkey on behalf of a Spanish firm that bought the components from China. Three Spanish regions, Castilla-La Mancha, Navarre and Catalonia, had bought the ventilators, the newspaper reported, while the shipment also featured sanitary materials paid for by the country’s health ministry. But before the equipment could be flown out, Turkish customs intervened. Emiliano Garcia-Page, Castilla-La Mancha’s president, said Turkey has “unilaterally decided to requisition” 150 ventilators it had already paid €3m for. He added he expected the national government to issue a diplomatic complaint about the issue, which he said was “bordering on criminality”.

Read more …

Cuba has sent doctors to 14 different countries in the corona fight. The problem with the blockades and sanctions at this point, whether it’s Iran, Venezuela or Cuba, is that people won’t forget.

US Blockade Prevents Medical Supplies From Reaching Cuba (TeleSur)

Cuba was unable to receive a plane with medical supplies and aid from China on March 31 because of the U.S. blockade. The resources were sent by the Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist Jack Ma. According to the official Twitter profile of the Cuban President, Cuba announced that the donation of medical supplies from the Alibaba Foundation to the Island-Nation to combat the COVID19 has not been able to arrive due to the regulations of the criminal blockade of the United States government against our people. The President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, also said this fact is an aggression against the human rights of the Cuban people. Jack Ma, a Chinese entrepreneur and founder of Alibaba, allocated a donation of masks, rapid diagnostic kits, and ventilators.

This aid was intended for the patients affected by COVID-19 and the medical staff on the island. On March 22, the businessman announced this shipment, which was to arrive at its destination on the 30th. “One world, one fight! We will donate emergency supplies – 2 million masks, 400K test kits, 104 ventilators – to 24 Latin American countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and Peru. We will ship long-distance, and we will hurry! WE ARE ONE!” Ma also announced extra supplies in the donative, like ventilators, disposable gloves, and medical gowns. However, due to Helms-Burton Law, the airship with the donatives was unable to arrive in Cuba under the argument that “the regulations of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against the country of destination.

[..] Cuba is facing the COVID-19 threat on its territory, with 186 confirmed positive cases and 2,837 suspected patients. Besides, the Caribbean island provides medical assistance to more than 14 countries.

Read more …

“The FBI and DOJ made up this ‘case,’ threatened to indict his son the next day if he did not plead guilty, hid–and are still hiding–the evidence that shows he is innocent, and they knew that all along..”

Prosecutors Want Delay In Michael Flynn Case, Defense Seeks Dismissal (SAC)

Justice Department prosecutors in the case against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn are asking the court for an additional three weeks continuance on the case, citing the review of “voluminous” documents submitted by Flynn’s former legal team that represented him for a span [of]30 months. The status report was filed by prosecutors Friday in anticipation of a scheduled hearing on April 3. Justice Department prosecutors stated in the status report that the documents provided by Flynn’s former legal counsel with Covington and Burling “are voluminous, span numerous topics that arose during Covington’s 30-month representation of Mr. Flynn, and include many pages of sometimes difficult-to-decipher handwritten notes.”

[..] In February, Attorney General William Barr ordered a re-examination of several high-profile cases, including Flynns. The re-examination of Flynn’s case will be headed by U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen of St. Louis. According to sources familiar with the matter, Jensen will be working with Brandon Van Grack, who is the former prosecutor that pursued the case against Flynn during Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation. In March, President Donald Trump tweeted he was ‘strongly considering’ a pardon Flynn. He said “after destroying his life & that of his wonderful family (and many others also) the FBI, working in conjunction with the Department of Justice has lost” his records.

Flynn’s defense attorney Sidney Powell told this reporter that Flynn “would wear a pardon like a badge of honor.” She cautioned, however, that the DOJ should intervene before a pardon is even necessary. Powell filed a supplemental motion to withdraw his guilty plea in January. In it, she cited the failure of his previous counsel, Covington and Burling, to timely, fully and correctly advise him of the firm’s ‘conflict of interest in his case’ regarding the Foreign Agents Registration Act form it filed on his behalf. Moreover, she argues that the conflict was so severe the firm was required to withdraw from the matter. He could not consent.

In fact, in Powell’s supplemental motion filed in January, she argued that Flynn’s former counsel “betrayed” him. Powell filed the motion to withdraw his plea just days after Flynn’s prosecutors made a major reversal asking the court to put Flynn in jail for up to six months. Shortly after, prosecutors reversed the jail time recommendation. [..] Powell told SaraACarter.com Friday that “as the government seeks an additional three weeks to work with Covington and Burling LLP against General Flynn, we are reminded again of this egregious injustice against an American hero.”

“The FBI and DOJ made up this ‘case,’ threatened to indict his son the next day if he did not plead guilty, hid–and are still hiding–the evidence that shows he is innocent, and they knew that all along,” she added. “Clapper and Brennan and others knew that Flynn intended to audit and clean out the corrupt intelligence agencies. They and the FBI targeted him to destroy with this false prosecution. Every day the government delays in dismissing this persecution is a disgrace for anything called “Justice” and an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Read more …

She means the resolve to keep both Prince Andrew and Julian Assange from facing justice. From a symbol to a useless old woman. Who’s doing terribly damage to her entire family in the process. You can no longer take yourself serious AND support these inbreeds anymore. She’s a accomplice to her son’s crimes; she’s denying his victims even just their day in court.

Show Typical British Resolve, Queen To Tell Nation (R.)

Queen Elizabeth will call on Britons to show the same resolve as their forebears and take on the challenge and disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak with good-humoured resolve when she makes an extremely rare address to rally the nation on Sunday. In what will only be her fifth special televised message to the country during her 68 years on the throne, the queen will also thank healthcare workers on the front line and recognise the pain already suffered by some families. “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any,” the 93-year-old monarch will say, according to extracts released by Buckingham Palace.


“That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country.” On Saturday, the government said the death toll of those who had tested positive for the virus rose by 708 in 24 hours to 4,313, with a 5-year-old among the dead, along with at least 40 who had no known previous health conditions. Health officials have cautioned that high fatalities were expected for at least another week or two even if people complied with strict isolation measures.

Read more …

It’s not about the documentary, it’s about the Law. In the days of #MeToo, the Queen of England decides to hide a sexual predator in her home. Signaling that the law does not apply to her family.

Prince Andrew Will Reportedly Not Be Interviewed In Epstein Documentary (G.)

Prince Andrew will reportedly not agree to be interviewed for a forthcoming documentary about the financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The Duke of York has been repeatedly criticized for associating with Epstein, who died in custody in New York following his July 2019 arrest on sex trafficking charges. According to the Daily Mirror, Andrew was “formally asked” to appear in Surviving Jeffrey Epstein, a four-hour Lifetime production slated for release this summer to follow the channel’s similarly titled films about the singer R Kelly. The British paper quoted an unidentified Los Angeles-based source as saying: “Andrew has been asked to appear to discuss his friendship, but there has been no formal response.”

The reports come some four months after Andrew’s own disastrous BBC Newsnight interview, which was followed by his withdrawal from public duties and patronages. An Epstein accuser, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, alleges that Epstein directed her to have sex with Andrew when she was 17. Andrew has categorically denied all claims of wrongdoing and maintains that he has “no recollection” of meeting Roberts Giuffre, although he was photographed with his arm around her. [..] The Mirror quoted its source as saying Andrew’s “legal team have told him to conduct no more interviews after he spoke to the BBC”. “There is a concern anything he says on tape or camera becomes potential legal material for the many civil cases facing Epstein, and FBI questions regarding Andrew. Essentially all allegations that mention Andrew within the context of Epstein will be dealt with by his lawyers.”

[..] In November, Andrew said he was “willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations if required”. But he has been accused of refusing to cooperate with US authorities investigating Epstein, who in 2008 pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution. “Contrary to Prince Andrew’s very public offer to cooperate with our investigation into Epstein’s co-conspirators, an offer that was conveyed via press release, Prince Andrew has now completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation and our office is considering its options,” Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey Berman told reporters in March, revisiting a claim made in January. Buckingham Palace said then it would not comment and said “the issue is being dealt with by the Duke of York’s legal team”.

Read more …

The land of utter stinking weasels has found another loophole: “Julian Assange is not eligible for an early Covid-19 release because he is not serving a criminal sentence.”

Julian Assange “Not Eligible” For Early COVID19 Release – UK (CN)

Imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange is not eligible for an early Covid-19 release from prison with other inmates because he is not serving a criminal sentence, the Australian Associated Press has reported. British Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said Saturday that some low-risk inmates, weeks from release, will be let go with monitoring devices to help avoid a further outbreak of Covid-19 in the nations’ prisons. So far 88 prisoners and 15 staff have tested positive for the virus in British prisons. More than 25 percent of the nations’ prison staff are quarantining themselves. “This government is committed to ensuring that justice is served to those who break the law,” Buckland said in a statement.


“But this is an unprecedented situation because if coronavirus takes hold in our prisons, the NHS could be overwhelmed and more lives put at risk.” The Ministry of Justice told the AAP that Assange won’t be among those released because he isn’t serving a custodial sentence. In other words, because he has not been convicted of a crime, and is instead only being held on remand pending the outcome of the U.S. extradition request, he must remain in Belmarsh prison with high-risk inmates–the most serious and hardened criminals. The Daily Maverick reported this week that there is one other prisoner on remand in Belmarsh, who would presumably also be left to rot in the jail as the virus spreads throughout the British prison system.

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The days that are over.

Boomer Elegy (Kunstler)

My stepfather, the man who raised me, was an interesting specimen of that gen. Fresh out of college in Boston, he joined the army, became a lieutenant, and by-and-by found himself trapped in the German offensive through the Ardennes Forest, known as the Battle of the Bulge. Unlike some WW2 vets, he was willing to talk about his experiences. His most vivid memory was the difference between the sound of American and German machine guns. Ours went rat-a-tat-tat, theirs went zzzzzzzap, he said, like you couldn’t even detect the interval between the bullets coming at you. It scared the piss out of his men, not a few of whom were cut to pieces. My stepfather merely caught several chunks of shrapnel in his arm and thigh, and was still on the scene when Germany finally surrendered in May, 1945.

He was awarded a silver star for valor, but never bragged on it. (My mother barely participated in my upbringing, but that’s another story.) He went straight to New York City when it was over. His gen’s victory dance was to get straight to work in the economic bonanza just revving up — because the war had happened elsewhere and all our stuff was intact, ready to re-start, to make and sell anything under the sun to the shattered rest-of-the-world, and lend them money to buy it — quite an opportunity for young men highly disciplined and regimented from their recent travails of war.

My stepfather became a classic Mad Man, as in the TV series, working in media, publishing, and PR, a hard-drinking cohort of mostly military vets who would knock down three martinis over lunch with clients (a nearly inconceivable feat, actually, when you think about it), but that showed what the war had done to the soldiers who survived. He died from it at barely sixty, and from smoking two packs of Camel straights a day, another habit of battle. We Boomer boys had his war as movies and comic books: Sergeant Rock and John Wayne on the beach at Iwo! We had all the fruits of that postwar bonanza. We had Disneyland, the 1964 World’s Fair, the Carousel-of-Progress, and Rock Around the Clock. We eventually had a war of our own, Vietnam, but it was optional for college kids. I declined to go get my ass shot off, of course.

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderfully generous donations over the past days.

 

 

26% of the population of Milwaukee is black:

 

 

 

 

 

The EU and its hardest stricken member countries:

 

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Mar 232020
 


Harris&Ewing House-Capitol tunnel (may get moving walk), Washington, DC 1939

 

How Long to 1 Million US Cases? (Mish)
Nobel Laureate Predicts A Quicker Coronavirus Recovery (LAT)
Canadian Doctor Rigs Ventilator to Treat 9 Patients Instead of One (IE)
Coronavirus May Have Existed In Italy Since November: Local Researcher (CGTN)
The Epicenter of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Humanitarian Crises in Italy (NEJM)
The Government Budget Deficit Is About To Explode (CNBC)
Senate Democrats Block Mammoth Coronavirus Stimulus Package (Hill)
Blame Game Heats Up As Senate Motion Fails (Hill)
Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43 (Time)
Coronavirus Reveals Financial Irresponsibility Of Americans (Hill)
Preventing COVID-19 From Infecting the Commercial Mortgage Market (Barrack)
Singapore Airlines Slashes 96% Of Capacity, Grounds Most Planes (CNA)
China’s Housing Bubble Bursts (ZH)
New Zealand To Go Into Month-Long Lockdown (G.)

 

 

Cases 345,292 (+ 33,496 from yesterday’s 311,796)

Deaths 14,925 (+ 1,854 from yesterday’s 13,071)

 

 

Haven’t shown these two graphs from Worldometer in a while. Obvious enough?!

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

One look at the US suffices:

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 13% !! –

 

 

From SCMP: (SCMP appears to have given up on timely updating)

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

Reported US coronavirus cases via @CNN:

3/1: 89
3/2: 105
3/3: 125
3/4: 159
3/5: 227
3/6: 331
3/7: 444
3/8: 564
3/9: 728
3/10: 1,000
3/11: 1,267
3/12: 1,645
3/13: 2,204
3/14: 2,826
3/15: 3,505
3/16: 4,466
3/17: 6,135
3/18: 8,760
3/19: 13,229
3/20: 18,763
3/21: 25,740
Now: 35,070

Note: unlike many other nations, US numbers are updated several times a day.
Note 2: about half of US cases are in New York State. It it were a country, it would be in 7th place in the world.

 

 

The US would have to pass China in total infections by Thursday, 35,000 vs 81,000 now. Almost tripling in 3 days. I don’t know, and I’m not the biggest optimist around here.

How Long to 1 Million US Cases? (Mish)

Inquiring minds are investigating a relatively new data feed from the Covid Tracking Project. I plot four data series for the US: Negative tests, positive tests, hospitalized, and deaths. Arguably, hospitalizations are the most significant column but the project only has two days worth of data. Once I have another dfats point or two, I will plot a trendline manually.


Trendlines At the current pace, the number of positive coronavirus cases would hit 100,000 on March 26, and 1,000,000 on April 3. At the current pace, the number of coronavirus deaths would hit 1,000 on March 26, and 10,000 on April 5. Those are not my projections, those are observations of what would happen if the current trends last that long at the same pace.

Read more …

Your good news of the day. Based on new deaths levelling off.

Nobel Laureate Predicts A Quicker Coronavirus Recovery (LAT)

Michael Levitt, a Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist, began analyzing the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide in January and correctly calculated that China would get through the worst of its coronavirus outbreak long before many health experts had predicted. Now he foresees a similar outcome in the United States and the rest of the world. While many epidemiologists are warning of months, or even years, of massive social disruption and millions of deaths, Levitt says the data simply don’t support such a dire scenario — especially in areas where reasonable social distancing measures are in place. “What we need is to control the panic,” he said. In the grand scheme, “we’re going to be fine.”

Here’s what Levitt noticed in China: On Jan. 31, the country had 46 new deaths due to the novel coronavirus, compared with 42 new deaths the day before. Although the number of daily deaths had increased, the rate of that increase had begun to ease off. Essentially, although the car was still speeding up, it was not accelerating as rapidly as before. “This suggests that the rate of increase in number of the deaths will slow down even more over the next week,” Levitt wrote in a report he sent to friends Feb. 1 that was widely shared on Chinese social media. And soon, he predicted, the number of deaths would be decreasing every day.

Three weeks later, Levitt told the China Daily News that the virus’ rate of growth had peaked. He predicted that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China would end up around 80,000, with about 3,250 deaths. This forecast turned out to be remarkably accurate: As of March 16, China had counted a total of 80,298 cases and 3,245 deaths — in a nation of nearly 1.4 billion people where roughly 10 million die every year. The number of newly diagnosed patients has dropped to around 25 a day, with no cases of community spread reported since Wednesday. Now Levitt, who received the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing complex models of chemical systems, is seeing similar turning points in other nations, even ones that did not instill the draconian isolation measures that China did.

He analyzed 78 countries with more than 50 reported cases of COVID-19 every day and sees “signs of recovery.” He’s not looking at cumulative cases, but the number of new cases every day — and the percentage growth in that number from one day to the next. [..] Based on the experience of the Diamond Princess, he estimates that being exposed to the new coronavirus doubles a person’s risk of dying in the next two months. However, most people have an extremely low risk of death in a two-month period, and that risk remains extremely low even when doubled.

Read more …

More good news. He can do it in 10 minutes.

Canadian Doctor Rigs Ventilator to Treat 9 Patients Instead of One (IE)

As hospitals scramble to secure more ventilators, some doctors are getting creative in order to help their patients. Such is the case with Canadian doctor Dr. Alain Gauthier, an anesthetist at the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital in Ontario. Gauthier, who has a Ph.D. in respiratory mechanics, turned one hospital ventilator into a machine that can serve nine clients using do-it-yourself mechanics. The process was so brilliant that some have even called him an “evil genius.” Gauthier was inspired by YouTube videos created by two Detroit doctors in 2006, according to CBC News. He said he created a complex ventilator to offer people the best chance at survival. “At one point we may not have other options,” Gauthier told CBC News. “The option could be well, we let people die or we give that a chance.”

Read more …

I would lend much more credence to this if it didn’t come from the state-run China Global Television Network. It feels like they want to plant the narrative out there that it didn’t start in China at all.

Coronavirus May Have Existed In Italy Since November: Local Researcher (CGTN)

As COVID-19 spreads across the world, many are interested in the origin of the virus behind this deadly disease. Fingers have been pointed at China, the U.S. and other places. Recently, a pharmacological researcher provided another possible lead to National Public Radio (NPR), a U.S. media outlet. Dr. Giuseppe Remuzzi, director of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Italy, said he heard from general practitioners in the country’s Lombardy region that “they remember having seen very strange pneumonia, very severe, particularly in old people in December and even November.” “This means that the virus was circulating, at least in [the northern region of Lombardy and before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China,” he told NPR.

Though Dr. Remuzzi originally used these words to answer a different question – why Italy acted later than expected on COVID-19 – NPR singled out this particular information in a tweet because it may relate to the origin of the novel coronavirus. China’s CCTV did the same thing by putting it on the headline of their report, though Dr. Remuzzi’s latest research mainly concerns how dire the situation is for Italy rather than the origin of the disease. What’s more interesting is that the English-language comments under the NPR tweet seem to completely differ from the Chinese-language ones under the CCTV Weibo. Many English comments suspect that China hid the situation from the world for a long time and that’s why similar symptoms showed up in Italy before the outbreak.

“China lied, people died” was most liked comment under NPR’s tweet. “So the Chinese government covered it up for even longer than we thought,” another comment said. A lot of Chinese comments, on the other hand, concluded that the virus originated in the U.S., so both China and Italy are victims. “Go to Trump for answers,” said a Weibo comment with more than 2,500 likes. “COVID-19 is a U.S. virus,” said another comment.

Read more …

When hospitals become super-spreaders. All it takes is enough sick people.

“Lombardy’s health care workers have been badly hit w/ infections–the differences with other regions are staggering. A recent paper by local docs argues that hospitals might be a key source of transmission there.”

The Epicenter of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Humanitarian Crises in Italy (NEJM)

In a pandemic, patient-centered care is inadequate and must be replaced by community-centered care. Solutions for Covid-19 are required for the entire population, not only for hospitals. The catastrophe unfolding in wealthy Lombardy could happen anywhere. Clinicians at a hospital at the epicenter call for a long-term plan for the next pandemic. We work at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, a brand-new state-of-the-art facility with 48 intensive-care beds. Despite being a relatively small city, this is the epicenter of the Italian epidemic, listing 4,305 cases at this moment — more than Milan or anywhere else in the country. Lombardy is one of the richest and most densely populated regions in Europe and is now the most severely affected one. The WHO reported 74,346 laboratory-confirmed cases in Europe on March 18 — 35,713 of them in Italy.


Our own hospital is highly contaminated, and we are far beyond the tipping point: 300 beds out of 900 are occupied by Covid-19 patients. Fully 70% of ICU beds in our hospital are reserved for critically ill Covid-19 patients with a reasonable chance to survive. The situation here is dismal as we operate well below our normal standard of care. Wait times for an intensive care bed are hours long. Older patients are not being resuscitated and die alone without appropriate palliative care, while the family is notified over the phone, often by a well-intentioned, exhausted, and emotionally depleted physician with no prior contact. But the situation in the surrounding area is even worse. Most hospitals are overcrowded, nearing collapse while medications, mechanical ventilators, oxygen, and personal protective equipment are not available.

Patients lay on floor mattresses. The health care system struggles to deliver regular services — even pregnancy care and child delivery — while cemeteries are overwhelmed, which will create another public health problem. In hospitals, health care workers and ancillary staff are alone, trying to keep the system operational. Outside the hospitals, communities are neglected, vaccination programs are on standby, and the situation in prisons is becoming explosive with no social distancing. We have been in quarantine since March 10. Unfortunately, the outside world seems unaware that in Bergamo, this outbreak is out of control.


Western health care systems have been built around the concept of patient-centered care, but an epidemic requires a change of perspective toward a concept of community-centered care. What we are painfully learning is that we need experts in public health and epidemics, yet this has not been the focus of decision makers at the national, regional, and hospital levels. We lack expertise on epidemic conditions, guiding us to adopt special measures to reduce epidemiologically negative behaviors. For example, we are learning that hospitals might be the main Covid-19 carriers, as they are rapidly populated by infected patients, facilitating transmission to uninfected patients. Patients are transported by our regional system,1 which also contributes to spreading the disease as its ambulances and personnel rapidly become vectors. Health workers are asymptomatic carriers or sick without surveillance; some might die, including young people, which increases the stress of those on the front line.

Read more …

“It’s truly a bridge to the other side of an act of God…”

The Government Budget Deficit Is About To Explode (CNBC)

Remember when people were all worked up over trillion-dollar government budget deficits? Those might seem like the good old days, once Congress and the White House finish up the coronavirus rescue package expected to be approved in the next few days. Estimates of just how big the final bill would be vary, but it’s assured that it will be a historic moment for sheer fiscal force being exerted at a time of economic duress. Administration statements over the past few days point to something on the order of $2 trillion in economic juice. By contrast, then-President Barack Obama ushered an $831 billion package through during the financial crisis.

That type of fiscal burden comes as the government already has chalked up $624.5 billion in red ink through just the first five months of the fiscal year, which started in October. That spending pace extrapolated through the full fiscal year would lead to a $1.5 trillion deficit, and that’s aside from any of the spending to combat the coronavirus. Already, the national debt stands at more than $23.5 trillion and will be on track to eclipse $25 trillion. Taxpayers shelled out $574.6 billion in fiscal 2019 on interest payments for the debt and another $229.1 billion in fiscal 2020. In short, the shock from the COVID-19 spread will blow a fiscal hole through Washington, D.C., that could take years if not decades to patch.

Hand-wringing over what this will all do to the debt and deficit situation, however, will have to wait for another day. In times of crisis, there is little patience for fiscal austerity, only a sense of urgency that while government spending can’t stop the virus from spreading, it can mitigate what will be profound economic damage. “It’s truly a bridge to the other side of an act of God,” economist Paul McCulley told CNBC.com. “We’ll deal down the road with the impacts on so many fronts of society with the whole thing. Right now, worrying about fiscal incontinence is the exact opposite of where we should be. We should have fiscal robustness implemented through effectively a joint venture between fiscal and monetary policy.”

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Romney to Senate Dems: “Keep this up a little longer and we will go from social distancing to social destruction.”

Senate Democrats Block Mammoth Coronavirus Stimulus Package (Hill)

Senate Democrats on Sunday blocked a coronavirus stimulus package from moving forward as talks on several key provisions remain stalled. Senators voted 47-47 on advancing a “shell” bill, a placeholder that the text of the stimulus legislation would have been swapped into, falling short of the three-fifths threshold needed to advance the proposal. Hopes of a quick stimulus deal quickly unraveled on Sunday as the four congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to break the impasse. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also delayed the procedural vote for three hours as they tried to get a deal. Democratic senators argue that the GOP bill includes several “non-starters” and walks back areas of agreement, such as expanding unemployment insurance, they thought they had reached with Republicans.

They emerged from a closed-door lunch fuming over the bill circulated by Republicans and called for McConnell to hold off on the 3 p.m. cloture vote. “We are pleading with McConnell not to call this vote,” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said after the lunch. “It’s a serious mistake. We have not negotiated this to the point of agreement yet.” Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is up for reelection in a deeply red state, said that the Senate needed to be “as unified as possible.” “We don’t need split votes,” he said. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) added that the proposal put forward by Republicans was “totally inadequate.” That resulted in McConnell delaying the vote to 6 p.m.

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I vote against all politicians.

Blame Game Heats Up As Senate Motion Fails (Hill)

The finger-pointing on Capitol Hill reached a fever pitch Sunday evening, as both sides rushed to blame the other after a Senate motion to move a mammoth coronavirus relief bill failed on the chamber floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) quickly took to the floor to hammer Democratic leaders, particularly Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), for what he characterized as petty obstruction that ignores the urgency of the crisis. “We were doing a good job of coming together until this morning, when the Speaker showed up — we don’t have a Speaker in the Senate, that’s in the House — and when the leader [Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)] and the speaker came in [they] blew everything up,” an agitated McConnell, his face flushed, said walking off the Senate floor.

Democrats quickly countered with accusations that it was McConnell who had abandoned the negotiations the night before, when the Senate leader announced that Republicans would begin drafting the massive stimulus package before Democrats had endorsed it. “There was a good spirit of negotiation into early last night. And right about 8 o’clock, our side sensed a sort of change in attitude, an unwillingness to give and negotiate, for reasons we don’t fully understand,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). The tense back-and-forth came moments after Democrats blocked a procedural motion to advance Congress’s third round of emergency relief — a package approaching $2 trillion — in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated markets, sparked mass layoffs and ravaged businesses large and small across the country.

Democrats have raised a long list of objections to the Republicans’ proposal, saying the bill does too little to protect the unemployed, feed the hungry, subsidize states and cushion students facing mounds of debt. They’re also up in arms over language to provide up to $500 billion in loans and guarantees for corporations, at the sole discretion of the administration.

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And she was lucky enough to get tested.

Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43 (Time)

When Danni Askini started feeling chest pain, shortness of breath and a migraine all at once on a Saturday in late February, she called the oncologist who had been treating her lymphoma. Her doctor thought she might be reacting poorly to a new medication, so she sent Askini to a Boston-area emergency room. There, doctors told her it was likely pneumonia and sent her home. Over the next several days, Askini saw her temperature spike and drop dangerously, and she developed a cough that gurgled because of all the liquid in her lungs. After two more trips to the ER that week, Askini was given a final test on the seventh day of her illness, and once doctors helped manage her flu and pneumonia symptoms, they again sent her home to recover. She waited another three days for a lab to process her test, and at last she had a diagnosis: COVID-19.

A few days later, Askini got the bills for her testing and treatment: $34,927.43. “I was pretty sticker-shocked,” she says. “I personally don’t know anybody who has that kind of money.” Like 27 million other Americans, Askini was uninsured when she first entered the hospital. She and her husband had been planning to move to Washington, D.C. this month so she could take a new job, but she hadn’t started yet. Now that those plans are on hold, Askini applied for Medicaid and is hoping the program will retroactively cover her bills. If not, she’ll be on the hook. She’ll be in good company. Public health experts predict that tens of thousands and possibly millions of people across the United States will likely need to be hospitalized for COVID-19 in the foreseeable future.

And Congress has yet to address the problem. On March 18, it passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which covers testing costs going forward, but it doesn’t do anything to address the cost of treatment. While most people infected with COVID-19 will not need to be hospitalized and can recover at home, according to the World Health Organization, those who do need to go to the ICU can likely expect big bills, regardless of what insurance they have. As the U.S. government works on another stimulus package, future relief is likely to help ease some economic problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but gaps remain.

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Of course there are Americans who borrow and spend too much. But how for the love of God is that a licence to even risk labeling people working 3 jobs and still not making ends meet, as irresponsible idiots who should save more? Who is irresponsible around here?

Coronavirus Reveals Financial Irresponsibility Of Americans (Hill)

How long could you sustain your household if you were to stop earning income? If you are like most Americans, the answer is not for long. Only 40 percent of Americans can afford an unexpected $1,000 expense with their savings. In fact, nearly 80 percent of workers are living paycheck to paycheck. It is no surprise that the probability of an economic recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic caused many to worry. In major cities such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, restaurants and businesses have been ordered to close. For many hourly workers, this means no paychecks in the coming weeks. Almost one in five Americans have already lost their jobs or have reduced hours.

At the same time, salaried workers are concerned about job security, as mass layoffs at numerous companies loom. While the situation is understandably stressful for every person affected, it serves as a sobering reminder that Americans must learn to live within their means and regularly save money. The need for all Americans to be able to sustain themselves for at least a few months on savings is accentuated during a time of crisis. This means planning ahead when times are good. Financial planners suggest saving at least 20 percent of take home income, while spending at most 30 percent on discretionary items. Yet too many workers still fail to think twice about spending entire paychecks for things they want but do not need.

Recent decades have offered us relative luxury. More than 80 percent of Americans own smartphones. The same portion of households own one high definition flat screen television, while over half of households own more than one. Over 60 percent of Americans dine out at least once a week, while nearly 20 percent dine out three or more times a week. The current panic is refocusing us on what is important. We now stockpile the things necessary for our health. Smartphones, fancy televisions, and restaurant meals are usually luxuries rather than necessities. Living within our means is not just rhetoric. It is a means of guarding ourselves during times like these. We have so much to learn from those who came before us. How many of our grandparents fared the austerity of the World Wars and the Great Depression, discovering to save, mend, and repair?

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The richer suffer more, they’ll have you know. What pricks this dick’s balloon, though, is suggesting that prior to corona, there was a “normal chain of revenue generation etc.” and “solid economic fundamentals”. There haven’t been any normal markets, and that includes commercial mortgages, since Alan Greenspan. You may like to disagree, but just wait till the Fed folds.

Preventing COVID-19 From Infecting the Commercial Mortgage Market (Barrack)

As a major participant in the non-bank real estate lending industry, I am fully supportive of the nation’s extraordinary response to contain COVID-19. The profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public health and safety of all Americans is unprecedented and the response measures being taken by federal, state, and local government agencies are essential and critical. One aspect of this all-out assault on an invisible enemy — in the effort to suppress the contagion and manage the precious resources of our medical community and first responders — has been the unfortunate but necessary cessation of general commerce nationwide.

Now everyone, from corporations and small and mid-sized businesses to employees and laborers from all walks of life, has been displaced from the normal chain of revenue generation, cash flow, and income necessary to meet their obligations, from payment of salaries, rent payments, mortgage payments, and all other debts and bills required in the daily life of every business and every American. As a direct consequence of the necessary response measures to COVID-19, high performing mortgage loans across the entire commercial real estate sector (approximately $16 trillion in aggregate), which had previously been grounded in solid economic fundamentals, are suddenly experiencing a temporary meltdown in cash flows.

We are seeing the beginning of a second crisis that will occur in the financial markets that underpin the lifeblood of these employees, workers, and businesses. Based on my own personal past experiences I would like to share with you some thoughts on how to alleviate the potential blockage in the commercial mortgage market which is beginning to raise its perilous head. Addressing this major looming crisis in liquidity in a coordinated manner will be essential in averting a crisis in credit and a long term economic recession.

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This is just one of many such reports, of course. What I found interesting is that just 5 days ago, Singapore Airlines said it would cut flight capacity by 50%. And you wonder: what happened since Wednesday?

Emirates announced yesterday they would cut all flights, only to be told some flights are essential to services. Those are reinstated.

Singapore Airlines Slashes 96% Of Capacity, Grounds Most Planes (CNA)

Singapore Airlines (SIA) will cut 96 per cent of its capacity that had been scheduled up to the end of April, said the airline on Monday (Mar 23). The decision was made after the further tightening of border controls around the world over the last week to stem the COVID-19 outbreak, SIA said in a news release. About 138 SIA and SilkAir planes, out of a total fleet of 147, will be grounded as a result. Scoot, the company’s low-cost unit, will suspend “most of its network” and will ground all but two of its 49 planes. This comes amid the “greatest challenge that the SIA Group has faced in its existence”, the company said.


“It is unclear when the SIA Group can begin to resume normal services, given the uncertainty as to when the stringent border controls will be lifted,” it said. “The resultant collapse in the demand for air travel has led to a significant decline in SIA’s passenger revenues.” Over the last few days, the SIA Group has drawn on its lines of credits to meet its immediate cash flow requirements, it said, adding that it is in discussions with several financial institutions on its future funding requirements. “The company is actively taking steps to build up its liquidity, and to reduce capital expenditure and operating costs,” it added. SIA said it is in talks with aircraft manufacturers to defer upcoming deliveries, in the hopes of delaying payment for those deliveries.

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This is a bigger threat to Xi than the coronavirus. And why does it happen? Because China’s second-largest property developer wants to be the world’s biggest maker of electric cars…

China’s Housing Bubble Bursts (ZH)

Now that the world is firmly focusing on apocalyptic forecasts about the state of the US and global economy, with St Louis Fed president James Bullard the latest to pour gasoline into the fire with his worst-case prediction of a 50% GDP drop and 30% surge in unemployment in Q2, it is easy to forget that China, which started this whole pandemic, is still in economic lockdown. And while Beijing is pretending that the Shanghai Sniffles are now firmly behind it, and forcing people back to work while openly fabricating disease numbers – because like Lloyd Blankfein it has realized that an economic depression is an even worse outcome than millions infected – the reality is that China’s economy is facing an unprecedented crisis of its own.


Today we got a stark reminder of that, when Evergrande Group – China’s second-largest property developer by sales – tumbled in early trading Monday after saying it expects full-year earnings to fall by half. As Bloomberg first reported, the residential property developer said in an exchange filing Sunday that net profit for 2019 is expected to come in it around 33.5 billion yuan ($4.7 billion), a drop of about 50% from the previous year. “The decrease in profit is mainly attributable to the delivery and settlement of the lower-priced clearance stock properties in 2019, which drove down the unit price of the property delivered,” Evergrande said. That sent the firm’s Hong Kong-traded shares down as much as 17.4% on Monday, the biggest intraday drop since July 2015.

And with the stock tumbling by more than two-thirds since its late 2017 highs, Citigroup downgraded the stock to “sell” and slashed its price target by 56%, as the expected decline in core profit was far below Citigroup’s estimate of a 27% year-on-year drop. To be sure, there are plenty of reasons to dump the stock: Evergrande is one of China’s most-indebted developers with net debt of $88.5 billion as of June. As Bloomberg reminds us, the company has been pouring billions of dollars into acquisitions as its Chairman and major shareholder Hui Ka Yan pursues an ambition to make Evergrande the world’s biggest maker of electric cars in the next three to five years.

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Ardern sounds a bit too convinced. It’s still just one view.

New Zealand To Go Into Month-Long Lockdown (G.)

New Zealand is preparing to enter a month-long nationwide lockdown from Wednesday night, with the entire country ordered to stay home apart from those in essential services. On Monday the nation was given two days to prepare for schools, businesses and community services to turn off the lights in a desperate bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The move came after the number of cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand rose past 100. In an address to the nation, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said she was not willing to put the lives of her citizens in danger. “The worst-case scenario is simply intolerable, it would represent the greatest loss of New Zealanders’ lives in our history and I will not take that chance.”

Ardern announced the country would move to level three measures immediately, and then to four – the highest level – on Wednesday from 11.59pm. “I say to all New Zealanders: the government will do all it can to protect you. Now I’m asking you to do everything you can to protect all of us. Kiwis – go home.” The lockdown will last a month, and if the trend of cases slowed, could be partially eased in specific areas after that. Ardern said it was now established that community transmission was happening in New Zealand and that, if it took off, the number of cases would double every five days, with modelling advising the government that tens of thousands of New Zealanders could die.

[..] Ardern said if the country did not lock down it would face a death toll beyond anything ever experienced before, and she wanted to give health services “a fighting chance”. Thirty-six new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed on Monday, bringing the nationwide total to 102, spread across the North and South islands. Ardern said she knew the measures would be anxiety-inducing for many New Zealanders and they needed to be “strong and kind” to each other during the unprecedented crisis. “Today, get your neighbour’s phone number, set up a community group chat, get your gear to work from home, cancel social gatherings of any size or shape, prepare to walk around the block while keeping a two-metre distance between you.

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Oddly appropriate:

 

 

 

 

 

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Apr 022015
 
 April 2, 2015  Posted by at 9:39 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Marion Post Wolcott Negro woman carrying laundry between Durham and Mebane, NC 1939

The Committee To Destroy The World (Michael Lewitt)
Our Current Illusion Of Prosperity (Mises Inst.)
Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think (Scientific American)
Burning Down The House: Land, Water & Food (Eastwood)
The Warren Effect: Here Is A Bluff That Needs To Be Called (Esquire)
Companies Go All-In Before Rate Hike, Issue Record Debt In Q1 (Zero Hedge)
Shanghai Traders Make Trillion-Yuan Stock Bet With Borrowed Cash (Bloomberg)
Greek Defiance Mounts As Alexis Tsipras Turns To Russia And China (AEP)
Greece Threatens Default As Fresh Reform Bid Falters (Telegraph)
China’s Fuel Demand to Peak Sooner Than Oil Giants Expect (Bloomberg)
The Saudis Are Losing Their Lock on Asian Oil Sales (Bloomberg)
Reckoning Arrives for Cash-Strapped Oil Firms Amid Bank Squeeze (Bloomberg)
Appalachia Miners Wiped Out by Coal Glut That They Can’t Reverse (Bloomberg)
World Dairy Prices Slide 10.8% On Supply Concerns (NZ Herald)
CFTC Charges Kraft, Mondelez With Manipulating Wheat Futures (MarketWatch)
Brazil’s Richest Man May Reap $5.6 Billion in Kraft-Heinz Merger
The Cuban Money Crisis (Bloomberg)
California Orders Mandatory Water Cuts Of 25% Amid Record Drought (WSJ)

Absolute must read. And then a second time.

The Committee To Destroy The World (Michael Lewitt)

Last month, the world mourned the death of beloved actor Leonard Nimoy. Mr. Nimoy, of course, was renowned for his portrayal of the iconic character Mr. Spock on the 1960s television series Star Trek. One of the most memorable Star Trek inventions was the transporter that allowed human beings to be beamed through space and time like light and energy. Investors expecting central bankers to solve the world’s economic problems might as well believe that Janet Yellen is capable of beaming them straight into the Marriner S. Eccles Building in Washington, D.C. Their failure to acknowledge that the Fed is failing to generate sustainable economic growth while contributing to income inequality and crushing debt burdens is inexplicable.

Central banks that purport to be promoting financial stability are actually undermining it – with the able assistance of regulators who have drained liquidity from the world’s most important markets. Negative interest rates on $3 trillion of European debt are an obvious sign of policy failure, yet the policy elite stands mute. Actually that’s not correct – the cognoscenti is cheering on Mario Draghi as he destroys the European bond markets just as they celebrated Janet Yellen’s demolition of the Treasury market. Negative interest rates are not some curiosity; they represent a symptom of policy failure and a violation of the very tenets of capitalist economics. The same is true of persistent near-zero interest rates in the United States and Japan.

Zero gravity renders it impossible for fiduciaries to generate positive returns for their clients, insurance companies to issue policies, and savers to entrust their money to banks. They are a byproduct of failed economic policies, not some clever device to defeat deflation and stimulate economic growth. They are mathematically doomed to fail regardless of what economists, who are merely failed monetary philosophers practicing a soft social science, purport to tell us. The fact that European and American central banks are following the path of Japan with virtually no objection represents one of the most profound intellectual failures in the history of economic policy history.[..]

Christopher Whalen, one of the best bank analysts on Wall Street, argued that global banks face trillions of bad off-balance sheet debts that must eventually be resolved (i.e. written off) and are dragging on economic growth. These debts include everything from loans by German banks to Greece to home equity loans in the U.S. for homes that are underwater on their first mortgage. Banks and governments refuse to restructure (i.e. write off) these bad debts because doing so would trigger capital losses for banks and governments. As Mr. Whalen explains, “the Fed and ECB have decided to address the issue of debt by slowly confiscating value from investors via negative rates, this because the fiscal authorities in the respective industrial nations cannot or will not address the problem directly.”

But in addition to avoiding the bad debt problem, these policies are causing further economic damage by depressing growth and starving savers. Per Mr. Whalen: “ZIRP and QE as practiced by the Fed and ECB are not boosting, but instead depressing, private sector economic activity. By using bank reserves to acquire government and agency securities, the FOMC has actually been retarding private economic growth, even while pushing up the prices of financial assets around the world.”

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“Massive layoffs in the energy sector are now a certainty. Few realize that most of the gains in employment in the US since 2008 have been in shale states. Yet the carnage is not over.”

Our Current Illusion Of Prosperity (Mises Inst.)

President Obama and Fed Chair Janet Yellen have been crowing about improving economic conditions in the US. Unemployment is down to 5.5% and growth in 2014 hit 2.2%. Journalists and economists point to this improvement as proof that quantitative easing was effective. Unfortunately, this latest boom is artificial and has been built by adding debt on top of debt. Total household debt increased 2.5% in 2014 — the highest level since 2010. Mortgage loans increased 1.5%, student loans 6.6% while auto loans increased a hefty 9.6%. The improving auto sales are built mostly on a bubble of sub-prime borrowers. Auto sales have been brisk because of a surge in loans to individuals with credit scores below 620. Since 2010, such loans have increased over 100% and have gone from 20% of originations in 2009 to 27% in 2013.

Yet, auto loans to individuals with strong credit scores, above 760, have barely budged over the last year. Subprime consumer borrowing climbed $189 billion in the first eleven months of 2014. Excluding home mortgages, this accounted for 41% of total consumer lending. This is exactly the kind of lending that got us into trouble less than a decade ago, and for many consumers, this will only end in tears. But we need to ask ourselves: is the current boom built on sound foundations? In other words, do we have sharp increases in productivity or real wage growth? Productivity increased less than 1% on average in the last three years and real wages have flat lined or declined for decades. From mid-2007 to mid-2014, real wages declined 4.9% for workers with a high school degree, dropped 2.5% for workers with a college degree and rose just 0.2% for workers with an advanced degree.

Is the boom being built on broad base investment in plant and equipment? The current average age of working plants and equipment in the US is one of the oldest on record. Meanwhile, it is now clear that the shale boom was an illusion of prosperity. Oil prices have dipped below $50 with some analysts calling for $20 oil by the end of the year. This is a drop from over $100 from last year. Many shale outfits need oil above $65 just to break even. Massive layoffs in the energy sector are now a certainty. Few realize that most of the gains in employment in the US since 2008 have been in shale states. Yet the carnage is not over. Induced by low interest, investment banks loaned over $1 trillion to the energy industry. The impact on the financial sector is still to be felt.

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Do read.

Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think (Scientific American)

In a candid conversation with Frank Rich last fall, Chris Rock said, “Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” The findings of three studies, published over the last several years in Perspectives on Psychological Science, suggest that Rock is right. We have no idea how unequal our society has become. In their 2011 paper, Michael Norton and Dan Ariely analyzed beliefs about wealth inequality. They asked more than 5,000 Americans to guess the%age of wealth (i.e., savings, property, stocks, etc., minus debts) owned by each fifth of the population. Next, they asked people to construct their ideal distributions. Imagine a pizza of all the wealth in the United States. What%age of that pizza belongs to the top 20% of Americans?

How big of a slice does the bottom 40% have? In an ideal world, how much should they have? The average American believes that the richest fifth own 59% of the wealth and that the bottom 40% own 9%. The reality is strikingly different. The top 20% of US households own more than 84% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% combine for a paltry 0.3%. The Walton family, for example, has more wealth than 42% of American families combined. We don’t want to live like this. In our ideal distribution, the top quintile owns 32% and the bottom two quintiles own 25%. As the journalist Chrystia Freeland put it, “Americans actually live in Russia, although they think they live in Sweden. And they would like to live on a kibbutz.” Norton and Ariely found a surprising level of consensus: everyone — even Republicans and the wealthy—wants a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.

This all might ring a bell. An infographic video of the study went viral and has been watched more than 16 million times. In a study published last year, Norton and Sorapop Kiatpongsan used a similar approach to assess perceptions of income inequality. They asked about 55,000 people from 40 countries to estimate how much corporate CEOs and unskilled workers earned. Then they asked people how much CEOs and workers should earn. The median American estimated that the CEO-to-worker pay-ratio was 30-to-1, and that ideally, it’d be 7-to-1. The reality? 354-to-1. Fifty years ago, it was 20-to-1. Again, the patterns were the same for all subgroups, regardless of age, education, political affiliation, or opinion on inequality and pay. “In sum,” the researchers concluded, “respondents underestimate actual pay gaps, and their ideal pay gaps are even further from reality than those underestimates.”

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Can man stop himself?

Burning Down The House: Land, Water & Food (Eastwood)

I’m sure when Talking Heads wrote “Burning Down The House” that they didn’t exactly have financial collapse and environmental degradation in mind. Although with a verse like “Hold tight wait till the party’s over. Hold tight we’re in for nasty weather. There has got to be a way. Burning down the house” it’s hard not to see that song as strangely prophetic. What we are now doing to the planet and to human society is exactly that – burning down the house while we are still living in it. Everyone needs fuel, especially during a bitter winter, but only a mad man starts deconstructing the house in order to burn bits of it in the stove or fireplace. Almost as mad as that is stealing bits of other people’s houses to burn, but that at least is not soiling your own doorstep – well not at first.

In a world of limited resources and limited space we’ve now reached the point where raiding our neighbours’ houses is the same thing as raiding our own house, because the net effect is the same – disaster on an unprecedented level. Of course it’s easier to live in denial and keep on cannibalising the world’s vital resources at an ever-increasing rate and pretend that it’s business as usual, but in reality it is anything but that. The alarm bells from commentators from all sectors: science, economics, religion etc. are getting louder and more frequent, better argued and with the raw data to back it up, but we are still not listening. Of course, the alarm bell was being rung fifty or more years ago by people such as Admiral Hyman Rickover in 1957, the now retiring Lester Brown and the late Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring).

Nobody really listened that well back then, although governments paid lip-service to these troublesome do-gooders. Now we know that what they said was entirely true, that we are headed for disaster and yet will still only get the tired old lip-service, as before or Koch Brother inspired denial. The evidence is clearly there that we are depleting all of our resources far too quickly, especially the land we use to produce food and draw raw materials from. In part a consequence of this, the fresh water supplies that are even more vital are also being depleted way too fast. Devastation of the land, especially deforestation exacerbates water loss and soil erosion. Couple this with increased damming of rivers, pollutant run-off into rivers, fracking and mining and you’ve a recipe for a water crisis, which will, in turn, lead to a food crisis.

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Amen.

The Warren Effect: Here Is A Bluff That Needs To Be Called (Esquire)

Let us be quite definite about this. Any Democratic politician who thinks this is a bad situation – or, worse, will not stand by a Democratic colleague in this situation – is not worth the hankie to blow Joe Lieberman’s nose.

Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party’s tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week. Bank officials said the idea of withholding donations was not discussed at a meeting of the four banks in Washington but it has been raised in one-on-one conversations between representatives of some of them. However, there was no agreement on coordinating any action, and each bank is making its own decision, they said.

My god, what a prodigious bluff. Also, my god, what towering arrogance? These guys own half the world and have enough money to buy the other half, and they’re threatening the party still most likely to control the White House because they don’t like the Senator Professor’s tone? Her tone? Sherrod Brown’s tone? These are guys who should be worried about the tone of the guard who’s calling them down to breakfast at Danbury and they’re concerned about the tenderness of their Savile Row’d fee-fees? Honkies, please.

The tensions are a sign that the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis – the bank bailouts and the fights over financial reforms to rein in Wall Street – are still a factor in the 2016 elections. Citigroup has decided to withhold donations for now to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over concerns that Senate Democrats could give Warren and lawmakers who share her views more power, sources inside the bank told Reuters.

Tensions? These are the guys who should have spent the last six years going door to door apologizing to every American for blowing up the world economy and then buying up the splinters. That is, they should have been going door-to-door to apologize to all those Americans who still have doors they can call their own. Call this. Do it now. Tell them their money is no good here any more. Give these brigands the 86 the way any respectable saloonkeeper gives the heave to a chronic deadbeat who’s run up an unpayable tab. Show the country in simple (and not necessarily civil) words what these people really are.

Demonstrate, speech by speech, that they have no loyalty to the political entity that is the United States of America, that they are stateless gombeen bastards who would sell this country’s democracy off like a subprime mortgage to put another ten bucks into their pockets. They are threatening the people whom they still should be thanking for saving them from themselves. And Senator Professor Warren is only their most conspicuous target. Don’t kid yourselves, this is a message they’re sending to every politician, up and down the line, national and local. Don’t cross us. We own you. There is only one response for a democratic people to make to this ongoing gross obscenity. Bring it, motherfkers. Bring your lunch. And your lawyers.

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What could possibly go wrong?

Companies Go All-In Before Rate Hike, Issue Record Debt In Q1 (Zero Hedge)

It should come as no surprise that Q1 was a banner quarter for corporate debt issuance as struggling oil producers tapped HY markets to stay afloat, companies scrambled to max out the stock-buyback-via-balance-sheet re-leveraging play before a certain “diminutive” superwoman in the Eccles Building decides to do the unthinkable and actually hike rates, and there was M&A. As we discussed last week, rising stock prices have tipped investors’ asset allocation towards equities even as money continues to flow into bonds, meaning that yet more money must be funneled into fixed income for rebalancing purposes, which ironically drives demand for the very same debt that US corporates are using to fund the very same buy backs that are driving equity outperformance in the first place. Put more simply: the bubble machine is in hyperdrive. Not only did Q1 mark a record quarter for issuance, March supply also hit a record at $143 billion, tying the total put up in May of 2008. Here’s more from BofAML:

1Q set records for both supply and trading volumes in high grade, as new issue supply volumes reached $348bn, up from the previous record of $310bn in 1Q- 2014, whereas trading volumes averaged 15.6bn per day, up from the previous record of $14.3bn during the same quarter last year… Issuance in March totaled $143bn and it tied with May 2008 and September of 2013 for the highest monthly supply on record going back to at least 1998. September of 2013 was the month when the record $49bn VZ deal was priced… Supply in March was supported by low interest rates (encouraging opportunistic issuance on the supply side and supporting investor demand by diminishing interest rate risk concerns) and a busy M&A-related calendar. Some of these trends will continue in April, although investors are becoming more concerned about the Fed hiking cycle…

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The China casino.

Shanghai Traders Make Trillion-Yuan Stock Bet With Borrowed Cash (Bloomberg)

Shanghai traders now have more than 1 trillion yuan ($161 billion) of borrowed cash riding on the world’s highest-flying stock market. The outstanding balance of margin debt on the Shanghai Stock Exchange surpassed the trillion-yuan mark for the first time on Wednesday, a nearly fourfold jump from just 12 months ago. The city’s benchmark index has surged 86% during that time, more than any of the world’s major stock gauges. While the extra buying power that comes from leverage has fueled the Shanghai Composite Index’s rally, it’s also sending equity volatility to five-year highs and may accelerate losses if a market reversal forces traders to sell.

Margin debt has increased even after regulators suspended three of the nation’s biggest brokers from adding new accounts in January and said securities firms shouldn’t lend to investors with less than 500,000 yuan. “It’s like a two-edged sword,” said Wu Kan, a money manager at Dragon Life Insurance Co. in Shanghai, which oversees about $3.3 billion. “When the market starts a correction or falls, it will increase the magnitude of declines.” In a margin trade, investors use their own money for just a portion of their stock purchase, borrowing the rest from a brokerage. The loans are backed by the investors’ equity holdings, meaning that they may be compelled to sell when prices fall to repay their debt.

Chinese investors have been piling into the stock market after the central bank cut interest rates twice since November and authorities from the China Securities Regulatory Commission to central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan endorsed the flow of funds into equities. Traders have opened 2.8 million new stock accounts in just the past two weeks, almost on par with Chicago’s entire population. The outstanding balance of the margin debt on China’s smaller exchange in Shenzhen was 493.8 billion yuan on March 31. That puts the combined figure for China’s two main bourses at the equivalent of about $241 billion. In the U.S., which has a stock market almost four times the size of China’s, margin debt on the New York Stock Exchange was about $465 billion at the end of February.

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Strong effort by Ambrose. He manages to look behind the obvious veil: “When Warren Buffett suggests that Europe might emerge stronger after a salutary purge of its weak link in Greece, he confirms his own rule that you should never dabble in matters beyond your ken.”

Greek Defiance Mounts As Alexis Tsipras Turns To Russia And China (AEP)

Two months of EU bluster and reproof have failed to cow Greece. It is becoming clear that Europe’s creditor powers have misjudged the nature of the Greek crisis and can no longer avoid facing the Morton’s Fork in front of them. Any deal that goes far enough to assuage Greece’s justly-aggrieved people must automatically blow apart the austerity settlement already fraying in the rest of southern Europe. The necessary concessions would embolden populist defiance in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and bring German euroscepticism to the boil. Emotional consent for monetary union is ebbing dangerously in Bavaria and most of eastern Germany, even if formulaic surveys do not fully catch the strength of the undercurrents. This week’s resignation of Bavarian MP Peter Gauweiler over Greece’s bail-out extension can, of course, be over-played. He has long been a foe of EMU.

But his protest is unquestionably a warning shot for Angela Merkel’s political family. Mr Gauweiler was made vice-chairman of Bavaria’s Social Christians (CSU) in 2013 for the express purpose of shoring up the party’s eurosceptic wing and heading off threats from the anti-euro Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD). Yet if the EMU powers persist mechanically with their stale demands – even reverting to terms that the previous pro-EMU government in Athens rejected in December – they risk setting off a political chain-reaction that can only eviscerate the EU Project as a motivating ideology in Europe. Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s chief, understands the risk perfectly, warning anybody who will listen that Grexit would lead to an “irreparable loss of global prestige for the whole EU” and crystallize Europe’s final fall from grace.

When Warren Buffett suggests that Europe might emerge stronger after a salutary purge of its weak link in Greece, he confirms his own rule that you should never dabble in matters beyond your ken. Alexis Tsipras leads the first radical-Leftist government elected in Europe since the Second World War. His Syriza movement is, in a sense, totemic for the European Left, even if sympathisers despair over its chaotic twists and turns. As such, it is a litmus test of whether progressives can pursue anything resembling an autonomous economic policy within EMU. There are faint echoes of what happened to the elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, a litmus test for the Latin American Left in its day. His experiment in land reform was famously snuffed out by a CIA coup in 1954, with lasting consequences. It was the moment of epiphany for Che Guevara, then working as a volunteer doctor in the country.

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Believe it or not, this thing will have to reach a conclusion soon.

Greece Threatens Default As Fresh Reform Bid Falters (Telegraph)

The Greek government has threatened to default on its loans to the International Monetary Fund, as Athens continued its battle to convince creditors for a fresh injection of bail-out cash. Greece’s interior minister told Germany’s Spiegel magazine, his country would not respect a looming €450m loan repayment to the fund on April 9, without a release of much-needed bail-out funds. “If no money is flowing on April 9, we will first determine the salaries and pensions paid here in Greece and then ask our partners abroad to achieve consensus that we will not pay €450 million to the IMF on time,” said Nikos Voutzis. The cash-strapped government has struggled to keep up with its wage and pensions obligations having agreed a bail-out extension on February 20.

Athens insists it has enough money to last it until the middle of April, but a final agreement on any deal is unlikely to be secured before the end of the month. A Greek government spokesperson later denied the reports of a deliberate default, saying the country still hoped for a “positive outcome” to its debt negotiations. The comments came as the eurozone’s working group discussed a new 26-page plan of reforms from Athens on Wednesday. Aiming to generate an estimated €6bn in 2015, Athens has pledged a range of revenue-raising measures including cracking down on tax evasion, carrying out an audit on overseas bank transfers, and introducing a “luxury tax”. The document also warned brinkmanship on the part of the eurozone meant the “viability” of the currency union was now “in question.”

“It is necessary now, without further delay to turn a corner on the mistakes of the past and to forge a new relationship between member states, a relationship based on solidarity, resolve, mutual respect,” said the proposal. The Leftist government has continually fallen short of creditor demands, who hold the purse strings on €7.2bn in bail-out cash the government requires over the next three months. However, the latest blueprint is unlikely to satisfy lenders as it lacks details on labour market liberalisation or pensions reforms. Previous privatisations of the country’s assets were also described as a “spectacular” failure, generating far less in revenues for the state than first envisaged..

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Wrong on purpose?

China’s Fuel Demand to Peak Sooner Than Oil Giants Expect (Bloomberg)

China’s biggest oil refiner is signaling the nation is headed to its peak in diesel and gasoline consumption far sooner than most Western energy companies and analysts are forecasting. If correct, the projections by China Petroleum & Chemical, or Sinopec, a state-controlled enterprise with public shareholders in Hong Kong, pose a big challenge to the world’s largest oil companies. They’re counting on demand from China and other developing countries to keep their businesses growing as energy consumption falls in more advanced economies. “Plenty of people are talking about the peak in Chinese coal, but not many are talking about the peak in Chinese diesel demand, or Chinese oil generally,” said Mark C. Lewis at Kepler Cheuvreux. “It is shocking.”

Sinopec has offered a view of the country that should serve as a reality check to any oil bull. For diesel, the fuel that most closely tracks economic growth, the peak in China’s demand is just two years away, in 2017, according to Sinopec Chairman Fu Chengyu, who gave his outlook on a little reported March 23 conference call. The high point in gasoline sales is likely to come in about a decade, he said, and the company is already preparing for the day when selling fuel is what he called a “non-core” activity. That forecast, from a company whose 30,000 gas stations and 23,000 convenience stores arguably give it a better view on the market than anyone else, runs counter to the narrative heard regularly from oil drillers from the U.S. and Europe that Chinese demand for their product will increase for decades to come.

“From 2010 to 2040, transportation energy needs in OECD32 countries are projected to fall about 10% while in the rest of the world these needs are expected to double,” Exxon Mobil said in a December report on its view of the future. “China and India will together account for about half of the global increase.” Exxon expects most of that growth to be driven by commercial transportation for heavy-duty vehicles, specifically ships, trucks, planes and trains that run on diesel and similar fuels. BP’s latest public projection for China, released in February, sounds a similar note. “Energy consumed in transport grows by 98%. Oil remains the dominant fuel but loses market share, dropping from 90% to 83% in 2035.”

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“Asian-Pacific refiners are forecast to add 5.4 million barrels a day of capacity in the next five years..”

The Saudis Are Losing Their Lock on Asian Oil Sales (Bloomberg)

Ships carrying oil from Mexico docked in South Korea this year for the first time in more than two decades as the global fight for market share intensifies. Latin American producers are providing increasing amounts of heavy crude to bargain-hungry Asian refiners in a challenge to Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter and the region’s dominant supplier. “By diversifying, more Asian refiners will be able to reduce the clout that Saudi Arabia has on the market,” said Suresh Sivanandam, a refining and chemical analyst with Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in Singapore. “They will be getting more bargaining power for sure.”

The U.S., enjoying a surge of light oil from shale formations, has raised imports of heavy grades from Canada, displacing crude from nations such as Mexico and Venezuela. That’s boosting South American deliveries to Asia even after Saudi Arabia cut prices for March oil sales to the region, its largest market, to the lowest in at least 14 years. The shale boom also has transformed the flow of oil to Asia. South Korea received its first shipment of Alaskan crude in at least eight years as output from Texas and North Dakota displaces oil that fed U.S. refineries for years. The country was one of the first to receive a cargo of the ultralight U.S. crude known as condensate after export rules were eased.

Petrobras and partner operators are also shipping to Asia and were scheduled to load nine tankers bound for the region in March, according to Energy Aspects, as Latin American oil’s discount to Middle East benchmark Dubai widens to almost double the average of the past year. Asian-Pacific refiners are forecast to add 5.4 million barrels a day of capacity in the next five years, according to Gaffney, Cline & Associates, a petroleum consultant.

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“April is a crucial month for the industry because it’s when lenders are due to recalculate the value of properties that energy companies staked as loan collateral.” Calculations until now are stil based on $90 oil.

Reckoning Arrives for Cash-Strapped Oil Firms Amid Bank Squeeze (Bloomberg)

Lenders are preparing to cut the credit lines to a group of junk-rated shale oil companies by as much as 30% in the coming days, dealing another blow as they struggle with a slump in crude prices, according to people familiar with the matter.
Sabine Oil & Gas became one of the first companies to warn investors that it faces a cash shortage from a reduced credit line, saying Tuesday that it raises “substantial doubt” about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern. About 10 firms are having trouble finding backup financing, said the people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the information hasn’t been announced. April is a crucial month for the industry because it’s when lenders are due to recalculate the value of properties that energy companies staked as loan collateral.

With those assets in decline along with oil prices, banks are preparing to cut the amount they’re willing to lend. And that will only squeeze companies’ ability to produce more oil. “If they can’t drill, they can’t make money,” said Kristen Campana at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP’s finance and financial restructuring groups. “It’s a downward spiral.” Sabine, the Houston-based exploration and production company that merged with Forest Oil Corp. last year, told investors Tuesday that it’s at risk of defaulting on $2 billion of loans and other debt if its banks don’t grant a waiver. Publicly traded firms are required to disclose such news to investors within four business days, under U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

Some of the companies facing liquidity shortfalls will also disclose that they have fully drawn down their revolving credit lines like Sabine, according to one of the people. The credit discussions are ongoing and a number of banks may opt to be more lenient, giving companies more time to prepare for bigger cuts later in the year, the people said. Credit lines for some of the companies may be reduced by as little as 10%, they said. The companies are among speculative-grade energy producers that were able to load up on cheap debt as crude prices climbed above $100 a barrel. The borrowing limits are tied to reserves, the amount of oil and gas a company has in the ground that can profitably be extracted based on its land holdings. With oil prices plunging below $50 from last year’s peak of $107 in June, some are now fighting to survive.

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Commodities have been overvalued for a long time, due to crazy expectations for China growth.

Appalachia Miners Wiped Out by Coal Glut That They Can’t Reverse (Bloomberg)

Douglas Blackburn has been crawling in and out of the coal mines of Central Appalachia since he was a boy accompanying his father and grandfather some 50 years ago. The only time that Blackburn, now a coal industry consultant, remembers things being this bad was in the 1990s. Back then, he estimates, almost 40% of the region’s mines went bankrupt. “It’s a similar situation,” said Blackburn, who owns Blackacre, a Richmond, Va consulting firm. Now, like then, the principal problem is sinking coal prices. They’ve dropped 33% over the past four years to levels that have made most mining companies across the Appalachia mountain region unprofitable. To make matters worse, there’s little chance of a quick rebound in prices. That’s because idling a mine to cut output and stem losses isn’t an option for many companies.

The cost of doing so – even on a temporary basis – has become so prohibitive that it can put a miner out of business fast, Blackburn and other industry analysts say. So companies keep pulling coal out of the ground, opting to take a small, steady loss rather than one big writedown, in the hope that prices will bounce back. That, of course, is only adding to the supply glut in the U.S., the world’s second-biggest producer, and driving prices down further. It’s become, in essence, a trap for miners. “You have this really perverse situation where they keep producing,” James Stevenson at IHS said in a telephone interview. “You’re just shoveling coal into this market that’s oversupplied.” Companies will dig up at least 17 million tons more coal than power plants need this year, Morgan Stanley estimates. Coal is burned at the plants to generate electricity. That’s creating the latest fossil fuel glut in the U.S., joining oil and natural gas.

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I was just sent this. Don’t know enough about it, I must admit. The article suggests that prices are still 11% higher than 3 months ago. That would seem to mean they rose 20% or so in 2015. It doesn’t make much sense to me right now.

World Dairy Prices Slide 10.8% On Supply Concerns (NZ Herald)

International dairy prices continued to reverse gains made early this year at this morning’s GlobalDairyTrade (GDT) auction, putting downward pressure on Fonterra’s $4.70 a kg farmgate milk price forecast and raising concerns about next season’s likely payout. The GDT price index fell by 10.8% compared with the last sale a fortnight ago, when prices dropped by 8.8%. Big falls were recorded for the key products of wholemilk powder – down 13.3% to US$2,538 a tonne, skim milk powder – down 9.9% to US$2,467/tonne. Wholemilk prices are now just 11% higher than than they were by the end of 2014. ANZ rural economist Con Williams said that with milk powder making up the bulk of New Zealand’s product mix, the GDT result suggested a payout of $4.50-4.70 a kg this year.

The largest price falls at the auction were generally seen in the longer-dated contracts, up to 6 months out – into the new season. “While these prices remain higher than those for the end of this season, the curve has flattened, suggesting less price recovery is now anticipated – not boding well for next year’s payout,” Williams said. The fall comes as the New Zealand season enters its final phase, with about 80% of production now out of the way. Most of the price weakness was put down to better-than-expected supply, with the effects of this year’s drought being offset by rain in many parts of the country.

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Warren!

CFTC Charges Kraft, Mondelez With Manipulating Wheat Futures (MarketWatch)

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Wednesday charged Kraft Foods and Mondelez Global with manipulating wheat futures and cash wheat prices. The CFTC says that, in response to high cash wheat prices in summer 2011, the two companies developed and executed in early December 2011 a strategy to buy $90 million of wheat futures they didn’t intend on receiving. The companies expected the market would react to their “enormous” long position in futures by lowering cash prices, the CFTC said. They later earned more than $5.4 million in profits, according to the CFTC’s complaint. The agency says litigation is continuing against the companies and it is seeking disgorgement and civil monetary penalties.

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“3G, co-founded by Lemann, eliminated more than 7,000 Heinz jobs in 20 months..”

Brazil’s Richest Man May Reap $5.6 Billion in Kraft-Heinz Merger

Brazil’s richest man Jorge Paulo Lemann may add more than $5 billion to his personal fortune after ketchup maker H.J. Heinz merges with Kraft Foods. Heinz, controlled by Lemann’s 3G Capital and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, agreed last week to buy the macaroni-and-cheese maker Kraft in a cash-and-stock deal. Heinz’s 51% of the combined company will be worth about $45 billion, valuing Lemann’s stake at about $9.6 billion, said Kevin Dreyer, a portfolio manager at Gabelli Equity. Lemann has invested about $4 billion through 3G Capital, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“A combination of synergies from the deal and the sprinkling of the magic 3G dust is giving Kraft a higher valuation than it would otherwise have,” Dreyer said in a phone interview from New York. “3G has a track record of drastically expanding margins. There’s an expectation they’ll achieve the number they put in and then some.” 3G, co-founded by Lemann, eliminated more than 7,000 Heinz jobs in 20 months after taking the company over with Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett defended the job reductions his partners at 3G have taken when they buy businesses during a March 31 interview on CNBC.

The share price of Kraft, which surged 36% the day of the deal, can be used to estimate the future value of closely held Heinz, Dreyer said. His calculation takes into account the ketchup maker’s special dividend payment and assumes a market capitalization of about $87 billion for the new company. 3G owns 48% of Heinz, co-founder Alex Behring told reporters March 25. The buyout firm contributed $4.25 billion to Heinz in 2013 and another $4.8 billion in the Kraft deal. Lemann hasn’t disclosed his personal stake in Heinz. His investments in publicly traded companies show he tends to have a larger stake than Brazilian 3G partners Marcel Telles and Carlos Alberto Sicupira..

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Multiple currencies. Looks inevitable for Greece too.

The Cuban Money Crisis (Bloomberg)

The currency crisis starts about 75 feet into Cuba. I land in the late afternoon and, after clearing customs, step into the busy arrivals hall of Havana’s airport looking for help. I ask a woman in a gray, military-like uniform where I can change money. Follow me, she says. But she doesn’t turn left, toward the airport’s exchange kiosk. Called cadecas, these government-run currency shops are the only legal way, along with banks, to swap your foreign money for Cuba s tourist tender, the CUC. Instead, my guide turns right and only comes clean when we reach a quiet area at the top of an escalator. The official rate is 87 for a hundred, she whispers, meaning CUCs to dollars. I’m giving you 90. So it’s a good deal for you.

I want to convert $500, and she doesn’t blink an eye. Go in the men’s room and count your money out, she instructs. I’ll do the same in the ladies room. The bathroom is crowded, with not one but two staff and the usual traffic of an airport in the evening. There s no toilet paper. In an unlit stall I try counting to 25 while laying $20 bills on my knees. There’s an urgent knock, and under the door I see high heels. I’m still counting, I say. She’s back two minutes later and pushes her way into my stall. We trade stacks, count, and the tryst is over. For my $500, I get 450 CUCs, the currency that’s been required for the purchase of almost anything important in Cuba since 1994. CUCs aren’t paid to Cubans; islanders receive their wages in a different currency, the grubby national peso that features Che Guevara’s face, among others, but is worth just 1/25th as much as a CUC.

Issued in shades of citrus and berry, the CUC dollarized, tourist-friendly money has for 21 years been the key to a better life in Cuba, as well as a stinging reminder of the difference between the haves and the have-nots. But that’s about to change: Cuba is going to kill the CUC. Described as a matter of fairness by President Raul Castro, the end of the two-currency system is also the key to overhauling the uniquely incompetent and centrally planned chaos machine that is the Cuban economy.

Even in Cuba there are markets, and the effects of Castro’s October announcement of a five-step plan for phasing out the CUC are already rippling out to every wallet in the country. The government has issued notifications and price conversion charts, and introduced new, larger bills to supplement the low-value national peso. Over the next year, the CUC will be invalidated what Cuban economists call Day Zero and then, in steps four and five, the regular Cuban peso will become exchangeable and be floated against a basket of five currencies: the yuan, the euro, the U.S. dollar, and two others to be named later.

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But still in complete denial: “..the governor’s action won’t mean mandatory rationing for households.”

California Orders Mandatory Water Cuts Of 25% Amid Record Drought (WSJ)

California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered unprecedented mandatory water cuts across the Golden State after the latest measurements show the state’s mountain snowpack – which accounts for roughly a third of California’s water supply – has shrunk to a record low of 5% of normal for this time of year. The Democratic governor took the action on Wednesday after accompanying state surveyors into the Sierra Nevada mountains to manually verify electronic readings that show an average snow water equivalent of 1.4 inches, the lowest ever recorded on April 1. “Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow,” the governor said. “This historic drought demands unprecedented action.”

Gov. Brown directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions of 25%. Details on how the cuts would be implemented weren’t immediately released, although the governor said in his order that reductions would fall hardest in water districts that haven’t adequately followed his voluntary calls for conservation last year. According to monthly surveys of water use, conservation levels have varied widely around the state. In general, reductions have been lower in Southern California than the rest of the state, in part because of the region’s concentration of estate-sized lots homes and golf courses. A spokesman for the state water control board, which has already ordered limits in outdoor lawn watering, said the governor’s action won’t mean mandatory rationing for households.

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